Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Burning Wheel Thoughts So Far

I received Burning Wheel as a gift and I slowly working my way through the book.  I have fixated on one idea so far -- using Burning Wheel type concepts to aid in Pathfinder/D20 character background generation. Character background generation has always been a difficult concept to get normalized across the different players, and I think a structured rule set could really help this, not by limiting the possibilities or strongly driving the mechanic, but by giving some structure to the details that are sometimes overlooked by the mechanic.  In particular I feel the following items have been treated poorly in d20/Pathfinder style games:

  • Contacts -- Hooks to other characters and NPCs is always difficult to normalize.  Rarely do I get references to negative relationships, which is disappointing.
  • Weaknesses and flaws -- Having a low strength score just isn't the same as having a weakness or a flaw that defines the character
  • Life Backgrounds -- Yeah, you can say you grew up on a farm, but where is your farming skill, ya big faker?
  • Beliefs and Goals -- Why are you here?  What are you doing?  What is your hook to the rest of the party?  So many of the characters just show up and they don't fit in but they get adopted by the party for no reason.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Holiday Special Edition Pathfinder

So to celebrate the holidays, I hosted a special game at the local game store with a holiday theme.  We had five players, a ton of sugary snacks, and a +3 fruitcake of bludgeoning.  The group all rolled d20s to determine the order in which they would pick characters from the collection of level 15 pregens I had prepared.  Everyone picked a character they liked.  Then, I directed them to give the character to someone else in the spirit of holiday giving.

One player was late, so I picked a class to give him.  He was very happy with it.

So the party consisted of:

  • Jinglewood McGarvin, a Tengu Gunslinger with a double barrel musket
  • Marco the Vain, a half-elf summoner with a dragon-like eidolon
  • Mavery the Ghost, a female Drow Rogue / Shadowndancer
  • Triton the Brave, a Samsaran Cleric
  • Binks LaForte, a Blue (goblin) Wilder (Psionics)
The party started out in Mirabar, a dwarven mining town.  There someone inquired after them in the bar, looking for an adventuring group to find a lost shop owner named "Saint Claus".  He apparently was a gnome that had "Enlarge Person" perma-casted on him.  He was taken from his shop of elven craftsman that helped him build various gnomish contraptions for the town.

Upon investigation, the party found the elves happy to have the old fat man gone.  He had been dragged out of the shop and into the mountains.  The party followed the trail.

The first encounter was 10 yeti.  It was a nice warm up.  The summoner found out how to kill things quickly with the dragon.  The blue goblin learned the effectiveness of his black dragon breath.  Mavery stayed in the shadows and sniped and backstabbed.  Jinglewood got off some serious shots.  Triton engaged in serious melee.

The next stop lead them into a cave where a local black dragon lived.  The Merovingian, as the locals called him, negotiated with the adventurers, understanding that a fight would not be in his interest.  He was able to negotiate passage with the group for 10000 gold, which the party didn't like, but that they paid anyway.

In the next room, with various platforms giving the room some interesting terrain, a group of Rakshasa ambushed the party.  Spells flew, with PCs blasted by lightning.  Black dragon breath went flying again.  Various spells flashed, healing was needed, and the dragon ate well.  The goblin even ran under the dragon and stabbed a bag guy in the knees.  Gunshots pierced the tunnels and echoed.  Shadows were deadly.

And finally the party found Saint Claus and a Balor named Krampas.  Saint Claus joined the fight but imploded only a couple of rounds into the fight.  The blue was messing with time as the rest of the party blasted away at the Balor.  The gunslinger was even able to shoot the whip out of the Balor's hand.

The Balor was a tough fight.  His attacks really hurt the party and losing Saint Claus was a big problem.  Fire stomr I was saving for the big finish, but I was one turn off on its use.  It would have killed some PCs; it may have TPK'd.  Unfortunately, I didn't use it in time and the Balor died on the double-attack by the blue with Ultrablast.  The group resurrected Saint Claus and headed back to the factor to celebrate.  He gave them gifts and had a merry time and vowed to remember their deed each and every year by sharing gifts with the people.

It was kindof a hokey plot and very combat-centric, but it was fun.  Everyone got to play with something new and interesting.  What more could you ask from a quick 4 hour session?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Friday Night Pathfinder: Moving into the Keep

Most of our session Friday night was spent dealing with new characters, new riches, and the new keep.  Ally the Gnome Sorceress is dead and replaced by Sandra the Half-elf Summoner.  Muroki the monk also has replaced Zirul.  Oh, hmmm... the group has no cleric now.
Don the Magnificent took a crack at interrogating the two bandit prisoners.  Even with dominate person, Don wasn't able to get much information.  The two prisoners were new to the bandit group, knew of a hidden cave that the bandits used but not its location, and knew that there was only a week to the Forgebar Dwarve's attack.  He threatened to kill the prisoners, but one of them recognized the markings of the order on the cavalier's shield.  She called on the cavalier to let her go and he made it happen.  Meanwhile the giant who previously been under dominate person was now eating while sitting on the sliff ledge in the underground cavern below the castle, happy, for now.
The cavalier dug through the treasures and came up with enough gold to have someone pick him up a vorpal greatsword in Waterdeep.
The ranger and cavalier went hunting and looking for a mount without issue, but found no mount. They did find a monk who was convinced to join their cause.  The cavalier went to Don and had him bring back his horse.  They were happily reunited.  (This could be the cavalier soon:  http://www.dorkly.com/comic/47540/skyrim-the-dragonborn-rides-again )
Kyriani Agrivar, the lady they previously met at the nearby estate (and who Corrail knows is a hidden lord of Waterdeep) showed up on a two-wheeled cart with another four wheeled wagon behind.  Sandra, the half-elf summoner road by her side, as her servant guided the wagon up and into the keep.  The wagon was left behind with unloaded crates of food and supplies.  Kyriani indicated that Sandra had skills the group would find useful and she would help them prepare for the upcoming attack.  Kyriani also gave notice that they had time for a trip to Waterdeep before the attack.
So Don and Sandra headed for Waterdeep.  Sandra was recruiting for guards.  Don was gathering supplies and looking for defenses for the Thornhold.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Saturday Night Pathfinder: The Goblin and the End

An OOC (Out of Character) report:

There was a new player tonight.  I found out at the end of the session that he was playing an overpowered NPC with ability scores all pretty much over 20 and a level higher than anyone in our group.  WTF?

After a character death last week, one of our existing players had to rebuild a character for the session at the table.  This was the goblin.  I helped him do a good build -- a rogue that fit with the high dex of a goblin.

It turned out the old character wasn't really dead, but was being pieced back together at the local temple.

There was weird plot line that the new bard dragonrider tried to introduce about a beautiful woman asking about the goblin.  There was no info to let it influence anything or even for it to make any sense.  WTF?

The bard dragonrider told us that Kooper was mauled by a bear.  We found the bear dead (how can a town that can't defend against golbins end up killing a bear?)

Crayla went and saw Kooper at the temple.  Unfortunately the rest of the party didn't seem to add anything to the knowledge about Kooper acting weird.  The end result is Crayla believing that Kooper got drunk and stupidly got himself killed.  Had she gotten more of a 'not right in his head' vibe, she would have blamed the goblins and their master, but that didn't happen.  I was disappointed.

The goblin got out and started running around town.  he eventually ended up in a group watching the party break into the glass factory.  The other two spotted him while Crayla was breaking in.  This time they were following a note which indicated Ameiko was at the glass factory (and she hadn't returned).  They didn't mention seeing the goblin until we were headed inside.

So Crayla, in the one move of the night I felt almost good about, shouts to the crowd, "There's a goblin the crowd."  The goblin gets trampled, spotted, fascinated, captured, questioned, and then dropped off a cliff.  He took minor damage, got out of the manacles, and followed us.

Once inside the glass factory, we get to the hallway beyond the room and the goblin is peeking at us.  Crayla, now enraged at this goblin whom they can't seem to get rid of, charges after him and goes into melee combat to kill the goblin.

The bard and Pleon are trying to work through some reason to not kill the goblin who is pleading for his life, but there is no reason.  The goblin has nothing we need, is an evil killer, and is just another goblin out of the hordes of goblin we expect to have to kill.

Crayla as the character and I as the player have to be the bad guy and kill the other player's new character.  There is nothing fun about it.  The GM just hung the new player out to dry.

So now, after the goblin is dead, Kooper comes back.  Kooper still isn't Kooper, but rather this Sargeant Henson that now has a vendetta towards the rest of the group for sending him to see the bear.  I see where this is going, I don't think I want any part of it anymore.

I am really disappointed, because I saw a number of things I didn't like about the scenario that played out:

  • Two players needed characters -- one got an overpowered NPC in the middle of the story, and one got a character that wasn't fit into the story at all and was pretty much destined to die.
  • The GM didn't tell us the new player was playing an overpowered NPC.
  • The GM didn't seem concerned that it wasn't a fun session.
  • The new goblin character was only fit to overlap in areas that I was filling in with Crayla.  Half way through the session I realized Crayla had nothing left to offer the group, between the goblin and the overpowered bard dragonrider both outrolling her on all her skills.  What's the point to have a character that never gets to shine.
  • When it came time to kill the goblin, the other players did almost nothing despite the fact that there was no in game reason not to kill him.
I don't think I am going to play in this game anymore.  I was stressed out the whole game and felt so bad when we got to the end.  This isn't why I roleplay.

Thinking more about this episode brought me back to this video from Emergent Play.  For me, forcing one PC into a position where they have to kill another PC was an abuse of comfort zones.  I knew killing the other player's character was going to be a bad situation and could lead to animosity between players.  I told the GM in advance that I thought this was a bad idea.  I let the other player involved know I thought this was a bad idea and that the GM would have to insert something into the scenario to make it feasible.  For me, it was out of my comfort zone and I certainly was expecting a 'nobody gets hurt' scenario.  Instead, the GM pushed comfort zones and let people get hurt.  I don't know if this was intentional or not, but certainly a reaction to the players stating they weren't having fun, shouldn't have been "this is just character growth".  It shows a complete disregard for the GM's responsibilities to the players.  To some degree, this situation forced me to quit the game to ensure PC vs PC fights didn't continue and didn't ruin any friendships between the players involved.  Sad, but true.

Friday Night Pathfinder: Taking the Keep

The party checked out the the Thornhold, a great keep set on the side of a mountain.  They were given a map with a secret entrance.  Felix and Corrail crawled down the cliff and into a drain tunnel.  Invisible, they followed the tunnel past a one-way mechanism (that they disabled) into a cell.  Through the drain grate, they could see the cell's occupant, a ratfolk archaeologist named Byron.  Byron talked the two into escorting him into the tunnel, though he was wary of climbing out.  Corrail and Felix checked out the rest of the cell area and could peer out into a main chamber that opened out onto the cliff face.  There they spotted two large giants, sitting and eating.

They returned, taking Byron along, and getting back to the rest of the party.  They diced to split into two groups.  Elliot, Ally, Zirul, the Tiger, and Yuri would hold back for a frontal attack, while Don, Corrail, and Felix would go in through the tunnel and try to take out the giants.  Once inside Don worked his magic on one of the giants as they were spotted by them.  One giant went after Don.  The other Don conviced to fight the other.  In the end, Don't giant won and became a friendly member of the group.

Outside the rest of the group were spotted and started to attack.  Two battle mages on the front towers cast fireballs down on the group.  The blast killed Zirul, Ally, and the Tiger.  The cavalier and winter wolf charged in through the front gate toward the Behir.

Meanwhile the party from below charged up into one of the rear towers.  The rogue fired off with his bow at the bandits below.  Don dropped three beads from his necklace of fireballs below and killed most of the bandits, the bandit lord, and the behir in one strike.  This happened just as druids from the forest appeared to assist.

The party took the keep and started digging through the plunder in the dungeon below.  They found a rod of resurrection so perhaps some could be revived.  One of the remaining bandits under interrogation let the new owners know that a Forgebar Dwarven attack was expected at any time.

Now the group gets to prepare their keep.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Getting out of a Slump: Advice for the Unexcited GM

I was reading this article over at Gnome Stew this morning and started thinking about the dreaded slump.  I think all GMs find themselves in a state where the excitement just isn't quite there anymore.  Along those lines I thought I would share the strategies that have worked form me.

  1. Take it up a notch.  This, by far, is the strategy I am most likely to deploy.  Instead of putting together a set of encounters, lather, rinse, repeat, try planning something totally different.  Take one of those crazy ideas you have been saving for later and use it now.  Intense, crazy, unexpected scenarios not only recharge your own skills, but they can bring a new sense of life to the players that is contagious.
  2. Take a break.  When you have a slump, sometimes you just need to take a break.  A break, even a short one, can give your own creativity and imagination time to catch up with you.  During the break, I suggest lots of reading of both RPG and non RPG materials.  Even movies and old TV series can become an inspiration for what you might want to try next.
  3. Be a player.  Turn the table around and be a player for a while.  I find my recent Pathfinder game where I am a player does a lot to refocus me to a whole new view of the game.  As a player, even a linear set of expected events can become rich and interesting if the characters are interacting in creative ways.  As a GM, this inspires me to pump up my NPCs a bit.
  4. Write.  When I really need to get myself thinking in the right way again, I sometimes turn to writing.  By focusing (or maybe not focusing) on a story I control completely, I can explore some new aspects of character and plot interaction that might inspire me to get back into my games.  And, if not, writing in itself is a useful thing.  My novel is about half done now.
  5. Engage your players.  When you're in a slump, its time to talk to your players.  What they want in the game may surprise you and might challenge you in a way that you didn't expect.  See what they have to say.
  6. Fiddle with the Formula.  When things get boring, fiddle with the formula.  Your group might not want to change systems, but maybe you can pick up an aspect of another system and adapt it to your game.  Personally, I am itching to get the materials for Burning Wheel (for Christmas or my birthday, maybe?) so I can learn enough to maybe run Burning Wheel (not real likely) or at least pick up some of the ideas and integrate them into my Pathfinder games.
  7. Hit the Reset Button.  When things get old, a new start can do a lot.  Stop your old game, reschedule to a new day, pick up some new players, grab a totally new scenario (maybe even a new system) and see what happens.  There are bound to be some new and exciting things that emerge.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Monday Night Pathfinder: Resurrections

Kroop was quick to split the crew and get the Celestial Kyte away.  With Sandara as captain, the Kyte made for the squib, the bodies of Kyte and Durgen brought along.  Sheena, Victaerus, and the Druid were part of the Kyte's crew.  The plan was to get the Kyte repaired, supplies and crew for the Zelbinion, and find someone to help repair the magic aboard the Zelbinion and perhaps help strengthen the defenses of the Celestial Kyte.

Arrival at the Iceflow Squib was a bad sight.  The outer walls was in shambles, the old ruins, temple, and inn were in flames, and dead bodies of townsfolk and frost giants littered the town.  An ugly gunman with a handmade musket watched from the tower as the Kyte docked.

Giffen, the Aquarvan (Crocodile Man) barbarian jumped shipped, hysterical at finding his old squib friend Rickety Hake dead by the squib dock.  Sandara grabbed Victaerus and headed to the remaining temple -- a temple of Besmara.  Inside, three priests from the other temple fought with the Besmarian priestess as they tried to take possession of the remaining temple for their own, now homeless, flocks.  Sandara got permission from the priestess to bring her crew in, ignoring the protests of the other priests.

Sandara rounded up the crew and had them carry Durgen and Kyte to the temple.  The strange gunmen watched and waited.

Kyte was brought into the temple where preparations began immediately to resurrect her.

Durgen's arrival caused a stir, the three other priests immediately protesting bring a half-giant into the temple after the town was half destroyed by a frost giant onslaught.  Guards gathered and the crew tried to push their way into the temple.  Outmanned, the Druid had Durgen's body laid down and cast upon him reincarnation.  His body disentigrated as ashes that swirled and set into a new body, a dwarven body, naked and whole, and Durgen came back to life as a dwarf.  Durgen awoke with quite the stir, accusing the druid of having shrunk him.

Kyte awoke too, and Sandara provided them both with gold and told them to get some rest.  A large chest was placed near the front of the temple, an offering to the temple.  The crew was given leave and told to meet at the Kyte in the morning.

The strange human gunman, Jerico, made his was to the barracks, chatting with a small furry hamster hidden in his coat pocket.  There he knocked on the door, talking first to a guard, and then to a shiny-armored paladin that headed up the local militia.  For his contribution in bullets from the tower during the frost giant attack, he requested payment.  He was given 100 gold, not even enough to cover his ammunition.

The next morning found Sandara ordering everyone to get to work.  Kyte and Sheena were off to visit the old Wizard's privet island.  Victaerus was off to hire crew.  The druid found his water control a good fit for helping get the Kyte into drydock.  As he watched her being built, he noticed a tree nearby the squib, and with Sandara's permission, had it installed in place of the lost main mast, alive and intact.

Kyte and Sheena found their way to the old Wizard, strange things afoot as usual.  The wizard agreed excitedly to join them to visit the Zelbinion.  Victaerus gather new crew including the strange gunman.

In his impatience, the wizard fast-forwarded time a bit to when the Kyte was fully repaired and the crew was ready to get underway.  The Celestial Kyte looked as good as new with the new living main mast and a gun deck fully stocked with cannons.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Saturday Night Pathfinder: The WTF Episode

This post was made by an omniscient observer:

So the party of 3, Pleon, Crayla, and Kooper, dragged the goblin in manacles back to the Sandpoint jail.  They healed him with a potion and gave him a thorough questioning.  Really all they found out was that he was from Thistletop (clan of goblins?  a mountain name?) and who his chief was.  Kooper went psycho when he mentioned the word clan and nearly killed the goblin.  They left the goblin in bad shape, unconscious and nearly dead.

Crayla asked uncaringly for gold from the sheriff as the party was leaving the jail.  He brushed her off, telling her he was talk to them later, choosing to instead focus on his duties to calm the hysterical wife of the man the goblin killed.

The party gathered and went on to the glass factory, trying to break in.  No such luck on Crayla popping the door locks.  Kooper tried setting the door on fire and breaking it down, but was too drunk to do any good.  They headed back to the Rusty Dragon.

At breakfast, the sheriff reappeared with 1000 gold in hand, payment for the goblin captured and something more.  He wanted them to chat with Shalelu, an elven ranger and trader who knew of the goblin tribes.  They showed up at the town hall and made a typical clumsy impression with the mayor.  Kooper was a bit of a disruption and didn't really want to listen to all the talk anyway, so he left.  Crayla and Pleon got a lot of information about happenings.  The sheriff was going out of town to get more guards, Shelalu was going to keep track of the goblins, and in the mean time, the party was going to protect the town and keep the townsfolk feeling safe.

Crayla, Pleon, and Shelalu went back to the Rusty dragon and talked with Kooper eventually joining them.

Crayla takes leave to rest so she is ready for another assault that eve on the glass factory.  Pleon is out and about researching and gathering items.  Kooper is in for another adventure entirely.

Kooper, drunk and disorderly, finds his way to the Kujitsu estate and eventually to an herbalist with a cure for his drunken state.  Unfortunately, with his sobriety, he forgets the last many years of his drunken life, and starts wandering the streets as Sergeant Jason Henson who has no idea where he is, why he looks so old, or what is going on.  He runs into Pleon and Pleon assumes his amnesia is a side effect of a drinking binge.  Crayla and Pleon eventually go to the glass works as planned with Kooper nowhere to be found.  (Kooper has checked into another hotel, has gotten a shave and haircut, and is trying to figure out his life.)

Kooper comes upon Crayla and Pleon trying to break into the glass works and jumps in to stop them.  Crayla spars with him in words, also assuming he is terribly drunk.  Eventually Pleon is able to get a Charm Person spell to take hold of him as to avoid an armed conflict.  Kooper / Henson rambles on about missing his friends, so Crayla suggests he visit the stable where is pet grizzly bear is kept.  After all, that seemed to be his friend when they arrived.

This is where it all takes an odd turn.  Since Henson is looking for his fellow soldiers and knows nothing of the bear, a trip to the stable isn't what he needs.  He finds the bear there, covered in 4 day old blood from the goblin attack and somehow assumes this creature (who is stabled and presumably tied up) killed his soldier friends.  He attacks the bear, the bear attacks back, and Kooper/Henson ends up dead.

Crayla and Pleon don't even know what happened yet.
As a player I was pretty well shocked at this outcome.  It seemed like there were several other options besides attacking the bear, though we all play our characters to our own choosing.  

The replacement character as it was left at the end of the session was going to be the goblin left locked in the Sandpoint jail.  I am afraid this is only going to end badly too, for the following reasons:

  • The goblin is evil and has killed a man in Sandpoint already.
  • The entire town and party is anti-goblin after the first goblin attack.
  • Crayla will blame Kooper's death on the goblins and their manipulative unknown master.
  • Crayla has been trained by druids / rangers that goblins are a chaotic blight on the land and they should be killed.
  • The goblin doesn't have anything that the party needs, since they already have a guide to where his tribe is (and a map!), they know who is in charge of his tribe, and he doesn't know who the unknown manipulator is.
  • Crayla may even be desperate enough to try to get additional help from her organization.
  • As things now stand, Crayla would attack goblins on sight.
So how could the goblin become part of the party?  The only thing I can assume is that an external happening would force it -- aka. railroaded.  What if our guide to the goblins was killed off or disappeared (we still have a map!) ?  What if our party's bosses told his to take him?  

I get this strange vision of Frodo, Samwise, and Gollum on a rope, venturing through the crags of Mordor, only instead with Crayla and Pleon instead dragging a goblin on a leash.  Where is the equivalent of the ring to tie the second group together?

I could see a different possibility if the goblin weren't already introduced as a bad guy (remember Deekin in Neverwinter Nights?).  Even if there were some fundamental change of heart in the goblin, I don't see anyway that Crayla would accept it, especially since Kooper's death is going to be looming over her.

Next Saturday is going to be tough on Crayla.  I need to figure out how she will react to Kooper's death -- that seems like the key.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Monday Night Pathfinder Pirates: Frost Giant Patrols

The Zelbinion made landfall in a fjord in the treacherous, icy north.  Unfortunately, the fjord was under patrol of three ships of frost giants that inhabit the area.  The Zelbinion spun to broadside the giant's ships while Durgen ducked behind with Celestial Kyte.  The gunnery crews slowly moved all the cannons to bring a full set to bear on the incoming ships.  The giants fired off ballistas while the cannons pounded back.  Caster brought flames down on the giants. The druid destroyed one ballista with fire, while Kyte set fire to the incoming ship.

Two of the smaller ships fled, while the largest, on fire, drew close into the Zelbinion for boarding.  The officers faced 6 Frost Giants themselves, as Durgen left the Kyte to help the fight aboard the Zelbinion.  The Frost Giants pounded away on the officers, forcing Sheena below to snipe at them and getting Durgen and Kyte both killed.  Finally, Kroop enabled the blade barrier, and the constant slicing of blades drove the giants from the ship.  Surprisingly, Victaerus, the 16 year old girl with shield and sword held her ground against the giants, even as the druid fled to water and then swam up through the air to continue attacking the giants' ship.

Until next time...

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Saturday Night Pathfinder: Sandpoint Days 3 and 4

A brief report from Crayla:

  • I found out a lot at the local brothel.  The Kujitsu family is an interesting bunch with some dirty laundry.  The old man and wife had a half-elf son (both of them were human).  He was sent to the orphanage; the mother was kept away.  The father later pushed her off a balcony.  They have a duaghter who was a former adventurer and now runs a local inn.  The family made their money locally through glass making.  Also I got the name of the goblin tribe expert.  Man, I wish she were back in town about now.  Sheriff says several more weeks.
  • The drawback of the brothel is now that Kooper visits there all the time.  He is just one vice on top of another.
  • Met up with Mr. Foxglove who paid us a bit for saving him and took us hunting in the Tickwood.  We were able to take down a wild boar and a dire boar fairly easily.  It got us a feast back at the Rusty Dragon.  Foxglove was all over me with complements and free drinks.  The evening got interrupted briefly by old man Kujitsu who came to try to drag his daughter away.  He was drunk and left after she walloped him with a big ladle.
  • We checked the Kujitsu estate out with Pleon's assistance.  I didn't mention the robbery portion of the heist to him.  We got 300 gold thanks to a nice distraction from Kooper.  Pleon got me in nice and invisible.  There were guards about but we made a clean getaway.  I also grabbed some contracts for Pleon to look through -- looking for who knows what?  Follow the money, so Kujitsu is a place to start.
  • We stopped by to visit the sheriff and got paid for our little skeleton job.  100 gp is nothing to sneeze at.
  • We got to go grab a goblin that had holed up in a house.  Pleon worked his voodoo and got him to surrender.  Fairy dust or no, I slapped manacles on him and we took him back to the jail for questioning.  He still has my arrow in his shoulder and I really want it back.  I wonder how much yanking it will take to get him to take me to this 'longshanks' in charge.
  • Once this goblin thing is over, we need to head to the glass makers -- I think Kujitsu probably has his money mostly there.  We've drained the local invisibility magic dry, so I guess I am sneaking on my own from here on out.
  • 4 days gone and I think we've got some time to go.  I was really hoping to get back to the home plane to show off the breach in the guard for the dragon eggs before they hatch.  I'm not sure that is going to happen.

Who is my Character and What do they Think?: Fantasy Edition

Playing a fantasy character true to their nature is a difficult undertaking.  Living in modern times gives us a background that isn't well suited to playing an elf ranger or a dwarf miner or a great paladin.  We would be much better to suited to play some hero from our own type of world.

Still we can rise to the occasion if we take just a few simple things into consideration.

A character has limited experiences.  In our modern world of technology people are exposed through print, broadcast, and other types of media so we can have a general idea of life throughout the world.  We can define normal by the media, and a large number of people can have very similar ideas.

In the fantasy worlds we play in, media is limited, and in some places, nonexistent.  The definition of normal is limited to what our characters know -- perhaps locally, perhaps only in their own household.  The only religion they may know and understand is that of the local temple.  Anything outside of this norm may be completely foreign to our characters, especially is they come from a small village or a remote area.  Animals of another climate region may be as foreign to our characters as aliens would be to us.

A character frames the world based on their own experiences.  To try to understand new things, a person frames new things in terms of their own experiences.  Things different than what is expected may be considered at best, strange, and in extreme, abnormal or wrong.  For this reason, as we play our characters, especially when examining other PCs or NPCs in the game, we need to reflect their own expectations into their interpretation of the world.  This colouring of the interpretation is very fundamental to interaction.  Though as children we all dream of finding another person exactly like us to view the world with, as we mature we realize that ultimately relationships are not based on our similarities but rather based on our understanding and patience with the differences we all have when looking at the world.  We look at the world through experience-colored glass and role playing should include that.

A character has needs and motivations that span a wide spectrum.  Flat characters are driven by a single motivation.  We've all run into the NPC driven solely by greed, vengeance, or even just pure evil.  Real people aren't like that.  A real person, and similarly a well-played character, is driven by a spectrum of desires spanning lots of things.  Gaining social status and acceptance, overcoming loneliness, trying to find security, trying to make up for past sins -- all of these things may play a role in motivating a single character.  It is the interaction of these multiple goals that can really make a character jump off the character sheet.


Lets take a single character as an example.  I am currently playing Crayla, a female half-elf ranger , on my Saturday night game.  Crayla grew up without her mother and with father gone most of the time.  She had 10 brothers who treated her badly.  She failed her druid training and fled using her ranger skills when she was old enough.  She fled to a large city where her caustic nature left her with no friends and more trouble than she could handle.  Eventually she joined up with a hidden organization dedicated to preserving the planes of existence.

Crayla has two sets of very different experiences.  In growing up, she lived in a remote area with only a druid grove nearby.  She had no model for observing the interaction of men and women (for example, between her mother and father).  She had no model for family beyond the conglomeration of brothers she had.  She had no model for caring relationships.  Her interaction with the druids seemed pointless since it required patience she could not attain and ultimately resulted in disappointment.  The interaction with her brothers was primarily a "take what you can get" kind of scenario.  She has no basis to understand altruism.  Her father was probably a breath of fresh air to her with stories from his journeys.  Though he probably exaggerated the good and dismissed the bad, the stories he told to Crayla filled her mind with a picture of life beyond, perfect and pulled out of reality.  It is not surprising that she chased those dreams.

In the city, Crayla found a harsher reality in the people.  Not only were they not watching out for her as back home, they were now actively hostile towards her caustic nature and trying to exploit her for their own gains.  Her lack of experience provided her with no basis for talking to another person and making any connection.  Though in the city she could see this happening all around her, she was an outsider and unable to participate in social interaction without disaster.  Fighting evolved from a useful skill back home to a primary method of social interaction in the city.

The decision for Crayla to join an organization was a lengthy one.  She had trusted no one, and had no reason to.  Ultimately the choice to trust the new group was only out of necessity due to other consequences closing in on her.

Because Crayla doesn't trust anyone, theft came easy to her.  She didn't connect with people, so taking something from them didn't bother her conscience.

So that's all the background, but what does this mean to Crayla now?

  • Crayla will reflect all of the aspects of her brothers in people in her life.  She will expect them to be mean, selfish, cruel, greedy.
  • She will not do something for nothing and may become hostile towards those that expect it.
  • She will not trust easily or at all.
  • She will be awkward when trying to connect honestly with people.
  • She will be in a constant state of lying and bluffing and be good at it.  She will know how to avoid conflict in order to take advantage of others.
  • She will not relate to other people's pain or loss.
  • She will value people around based on how much they make her life easier.
  • Being away from a crowded household with her brothers and away from the city will increase her anxiety from simple loneliness.  She won't understand this, but will seek out people and crowds to alleviate this.
  • She will distrust authority and generally associate magic with this, because of her experience with the druids.  She probably won't trust magic and see magic users as haughty and arrogant.
  • She will prey on weakness in everyone around here, attempting to always get an upper hand.
But most importantly, Crayla will have new experiences, and those should change her, for better or worse.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

So what's a Behir?

Check out the stats here:  Pathfinder PRD Behir

Friday Night Pathfinder: Goblins

So the party started into the Sword Mountains, leaving Waterdeep behind and following their "new" guide Marlowe and keeping a watchful eye on the map they picked up in the city.  Up into the mountains, Felix, the rogue, spots two goblins and says 'hi'.  They run off.  The group continues on, and with the cavalier out in front on his horse, the rogue is too late in spotting the trap.  A sonic trap goes off all around them.

Then goblins appear... lots of goblins.  72 goblins.  Goblins with crossbows.  Goblin shaman casters.  Goblin dog riders.  Goblin spearmen.  Goblin infantry with swords.  They were crawling out of holes in the ground.  They were appearing on the cliffs and rocks above.

(To simplify tracking of 72 goblins, I had them attack mostly in groups, and I gave them only 1 hp.  If you hit, you kill.  On the board, they were represented by goblin miniatures with a die next to them keeping track of the number left in each group.)

Oh let us count the ways of killing goblins:
  • Corrail used his bow and Arrow eruption to kill groups of 8 in two rounds.
  • Elliot, the cavalier, tramping goblin riders with his horse, and scaring them off a cliff.
  • Don the Magnificent tossing a bead off the necklace of fireballs into a group of them and dominating one of them into getting killed by another.
  • Yuri the winter wolf blasting goblins with his breath weapon.
  • Ally blasting the goblins with fireball and smacking them with a quarterstaff.
  • Felix shooting them with a longbow and stabbing them with blades.
  • Zirul stabbing them with his blade.
It was a massacre of the goblins.  They messed with the wrong party.

Afterwards the group explored nearby estates where Corrail was looking to deliver a message.  The first estate was found burnt to the ground and the occupants killed by some sort of medium creatures.

The second estate was damaged but secured by a woman, to whom Corrail was delivering a letter.  The magical, half-drow woman gave them a new chore -- to go to the Thornhold and drive out a bandit group that had taken it over.  Oh, and they have a Behir.  Oh, and also giants.  
So for next time I need to have the keep and keep maps ready to go.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Monday Night Pathfinder Pirates: Taking the Zelbinion to Sea

Monday night was a night of answering questions.  There was drinking of rum when it was announced that the Zelbinion had been cleared.  Kroop passed around the story of how he saved the day by disarming the bomb on the lower level.  Kyte called the crew together for time to elect a captain.  Durgen and Kroop were nominated and Kroop was obviously the more popular.  He quickly grabbed Durgen and suggested he take control of the Celestial Kyte.

After the partying was over, Kroop called the officers and select other crew together.  The druid was working on repairs to the Zelbinion bilge pumps and steering mechanism.  Kyte was working on keying the tiller to Kroop's old pocket watch.  Sheena took over cook's duties.  Durgen chose his pyro gunner to accompany him.  Victaerus was assigned to ready the boarding party just in case.

The plan was to sail north north east till they hit the coast and then send just the Celestial Kyte to the squib for repairs, supplies, crew, and nautical charts.  Then, replenished and at full power, they can decide what to do next.

At that point the ship was attacked.  Crimson scourge -- large shell based sea dwellers with long tentacles -- climbed the side of the ship.  One was attacked by the crew and the other two were left for the officers.

Durgen rushed in but was paralyzed by the tentacle.  The druid and mage fought the creature from a distance until the druid entangled it in the plants making up the sails.  Sheena, Victaerus, and a swarm of rats called by the druid fought the other one.  It fell overboard, nearly dead, and the druid dove in after it, changing into a shark to chase it down.

Durgen awoke to find himself tangled in vines.  He tried to break free.  His position gave him a good view as the Druid changed back from shark to human, landing on the main deck with a dead scourge.  "Wereshark," he called out pointing.

The other scourge was dead. So ended the battle and the session.

Saturday Night Pathfinders: What is the name of this town anyway?

A light report from Crayla:

Taking out the goblins impressed the local yocals.  Alderan Foxglove was happy to be saved by us.  I'll see what we can use him for.

We visited the cathedral and the priest Father Zantas.  Everything seemed intact.  I really wish the other guys could allow us to make an appearance without making a negative first impression.

We visited the jail to see if any of the goblins had been captured.  No such luck and the sheriff wasn't around.  We'd try to catch him in the morning.

Ameko Kujitsu caught us in town.  She offered us a week's stay at her inn -- the Rusty Dragon.  Talking to her later I found out she was a former adventurer.  She might be a resource we can call on if needed.  And, her last name matches the biggest crypt in the cemetery.  There is money in that family.

The gossip about the goblin raid showed the stupidity of the attack.  The goblins had no business attacking the town.  It had to be a distraction.


On the first night of our stay, I had Kooper meet me in my quarters.  I made sure we made a lot of noise, though I'm not sure if anyone besides Pleon could hear us.  After our alibi was established, we dropped a rope out the back window and went to the local jewelry shop.  Kooper kept watch while I went in all invisible and quiet.  The place was still a mess and the vault was wide open.  I pulled out over 2000 gold, enough for a nice profit and to pay back Kooper for the potion.  No one suspected a thing.  The invisibility potion was probably overkill, but I don't want to get caught it some podunk town over a couple thousand gold.


Breakfast the next morning was quiet until the sheriff showed up.  He asked us to escort him to the local boneyard where the old dead priest's crypt was broken into.  Fearing more goblins, he sent us in first.  Two skeletons were hanging around and we made quick work of them.  Pleon was able to figure out a discarded robe in the crypt was the source of the skeletons -- a necromancer's robe of some sort.  It seemed like a thing we could trace, but no luck.  My bet is that it came from the big city that is 3 or 4 days away -- Magnamar.  Good luck finding who bought it there.

We also found out that the former priest's daughter presumed dead in the fire was never really found.  It seems like a suspicious coincidence.

Based on the tracks at the tomb, a medium sized creature took the remains.  So what do we have -- a medium size creature who stole some remains while using goblin tribes for a distraction.  Probably a necromancer.  Great.

I asked about the goblin tribes, but the only person who knew anything was a drifting nuisance adventurer who was not expected in town for weeks.  Gah.  Bad luck.  I would hate to have to track down every goblin tribe in the hills myself, but it may come to that.

Much to my dismay, there is no bank in town.  The Rusty Dragon has a vault for valuables, though I doubt that it would be worth my while.

To find out more, Kooper and I headed to the brothel.  I slipped them a bribe to find the companions that the nobles like.  For a bit more gold, I should be able to get some rumors and info on the hidden side of the townsfolk.  You can always bet that every town has its dirty little secrets.


So our little party of misfits is starting to take shape.

Pleon seems calm, smart, and knows the magic hooplah.  He's a little uptight and doesn't seem to be the type to participate in our thieving activities.  Its good to have a brain in the group.

Kooper I'm still trying to figure out.  He goes a bit crazy when he's fighting -- like the way he burned that goblin.  My bet is that is why he is ex-military.  He likes the ale a bit too much, but he's very capable.  He seems a little foolish or a little crazy or a little of both.  I don't mind that.  I do wonder if he really knows what he is doing or if he is just pretending to know what he is doing.  I guess if it works, I don't care which.  I just hope he doesn't get sweet on me.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Something in the Works

Didn't somebody say something about a keep?

Ultimate Campaign

Even as I am preparing a long post discussing how to potentially generate contacts for Pathfinder, Paizo comes to the rescue and announces "Ultimate Campaigns" (via ICv2)

"Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Campaign is 256 pages, and includes:

  • An extensive system for generating character and NPC backgrounds, history, and family, from the son of the farmer to the king’s daughter.
  • Innovative new story feats that tie your character’s background and experiences into the game, giving players goals to accomplish for even greater rewards.
  • A complete system for tracking what your character does between adventures, from opening a tavern to crafting a powerful magic item.
  • A number of systems to add expand Pathfinder play, including fame, honor, relationships, and more.
  • Rules for building and maintaining a kingdom, from a small town to a mighty nation.
  • A simple system for taking kingdoms and larger armies to war against their neighbors or even incredibly powerful monsters, like ancient dragons or the terrifying tarrasque."

  • I am excited.  Unfortunately, I am going to have to deal with a lot of these topics before April in my campaign settings.  I wish I could get in on the beta.

    Friday, November 23, 2012

    Burning Wheel

    I've just started reading Burning Wheel Hub and Spokes.  For those interested, it is available here on the Burning Wheel website for free (registration required).  "Hub and Spokes" is the core rules for Burning Wheel.

    Saturday, November 17, 2012

    Saturday Night Pathfinder: Invading Goblins

    Report from Crayla:

    I met up with the guys today around noontime and set up plans to meet them back at the Rusty Dragon at nightfall.  I grabbed some grub at the festival.  Kooper had that gleam of trouble maker in his eye when he said he was going to the general store. I followed him and watched him stock up on lamp oil, lots and lots of lamp oil.  This isn't going to end well if he ends up burning down the whole town.  He doesn't seem to be smart enough to handle that stuff.

    I grabbed some rope, a grappling hook, and a crowbar for a reasonable price.  With these items, it gives me a few more options on pulling off a heist.  I mentioned to Kooper that if he could get me a potion of invisibility, I could double his return on it.  He slipped me one, trying to make sure the mage didn't see.  Pleon's (not Peelon) scruples seem to be a bit more bothersome than mine and Kooper's.  Anyway, it was a nice way to sweet talk a 300 gp potion, and I won't owe him a dime if he gets himself killed before this is over.

    I tried to stay close enough to the bell tower but the fates were not with me today.  Goblins came in and came in quick.  We went after three behind one wagon.  My bow didn't fail me.  We went after three behind another wagon and I got charged by the nasty grimies.  My lucky sword and shield helped me hold them off while the mage blasted away at them with a crossbow and spells.  I guess he's handier than he looks.

    Goblins give me the creeps.  And they sing and sing.  Nasty little grimies.

    Kooper went berserko on the second batch of them.  He charged through killing, then got caught be some sortof goblin witchcraft.  It wasn't pretty -- him laughing like a fool when you could see the anger building in his eyes.  When he came around though, he was pure fire vengeance.  He even grabbed one of the goblins and burnt it alive on a wagon they had lit fire to.  It's lucky he didn't blow himself up.  I could see the burns on his hands as we charged into the next courtyard between buildings.

    I thought I had just about lost both little guys in the next fight.  I kept at range with my bow, but the mage and Kooper got pounded.  I called the mage in behind me while I picked off his attackers.  There were a few seconds there where it felt like I couldn't get my pace, but then I started dropping arrows in their brainpans again.

    Kooper was ready to drop and should have pulled back but instead dodged a goblin attack and downed a potion to keep himself going.  There is more to that short stack than meets the eye.

    I think the goblins have cleared out now.  I guess we'll get time to assess the damage to the town and find out what this has to do with everything else.

    Friday, November 16, 2012

    Friday Night Pathfinder: Now Where Did that Rogue Go?

    The party regroups, including Zirul, and the tiger, who now points a way to follow him.  The group searched the remains and finds out the secret of the Pyramid necklaces.  It is a big pyramid scheme for energy.  When one of them dies, the others get the energy.  Don, with his necklace, is becoming so charismatic that he can sparkle like a Twilight vampire.

    The group follows the tiger to a cellar door in a big old building.  Don talks his way mostly out of the fight after it started.  He realizes these are thugs for the Xanathar's Thieve's Guild.
    Meanwhile Felix awaits, tied to a stone chair in an underground cavern.  Marlowe is one of the guards keep watch over him.  He has been informed that he awaits trial for not completing his mission to deal with the red wizard in Secomber.
    The party gains access and follows the cellars through cavern after cave until they reach the beholder's chamber.  Don negotiates a price on Felix's head for his dark skull and gets an answer to the question.  He wants to know where the greatest repository of things for him to learn is, and the beholders tell him it is in the Sword Mountains, if he can look to find what cannot be seen.

    Felix is released and the party finishes up their last shopping and role playing sessions in Waterdeep.  Then it is time to head north into the mountains.

    Comment Changes

    Since we've had no problems with spam comments, I am opening up the blog commenting settings a bit to allow anyone to comment.  Comments must be approved (which should keep spammers away) but should otherwise be unhindered.

    Please comment.


    Savage Worlds: Session II

    So we got together last night, and after a few character tweaks, the Pien Ridge Horror got back underway.  So here's roughly how the adventure went:
    • Found gruesome stuff while hiking.  I fail my fear check.
    • Set up camp.  Get frightenened by a bear escaping one of the sasquatch that we don't know about yet.  I fail my fear attempt.  The bear gets shot.
    • Sasquatch grabs one of our rangers.  Pieces go flying and I fail my fear check.
    • One of the other characters flies up to the ridge with the radio to call for help.  He gets rocks throw at him by the sasquatch, but isn't injured.
    • We sleep overnight and I regain myself after being frightened so many times.
    • We head up the trail and get attacked by a saquatch.  Several good shots protect us from getting mauled by the crazed creature.
    At this point one of the other guys take over as GM.
    • We head up to a cabin lead by an Indian named Crowkiller.
    • We fortify and prepare for sasquatch attacks.  There are bear traps on the front porch, lots of guns, boarded up windows, and an old shed with some sweaty old dynamite.
    • The flying guy takes up position in a tree.  The other player and I take up positions on the roof.  We stick the rest of the guys in the cabin, hoping they will protect us while we pick off the other sasquatch.
    • The sasquatch (2 or them) run right up on us.  We get off a couple of shots before they charge onto the roof.  The rest of the party is too scared to help.  Arg!
    • I run for the shed and get behind it and pound to draw the sasquatch in.  Unfortunately, I mess up royally and don't ready a run away action.  The dynamites detonates and blows me up with one of the sasquatch.
    • The rest of the party just keeps blasting the now 2 other sasquatch (another one slipped in from behind the cabin).
    • I roll badly and bleed out and die.  I guess this is a fitting end in a horror story.
    • The other guys survive and are rescued.
    So here are my takeaways from the system:
    • Light and fast.  We figured it out pretty quick.
    • Combat was really fast.
    • To an old d20 / D&D 3.5 / Pathfinder player I still sometimes get confused with the ace (exploding) dice, where max rolls continue to roll and add.  I forget we are switching dice and try to reroll all sixes.
    • There are quite a few scenarios not covered in the book, like do we get a notice check to wake up?  I'd like to see how these kinds of things are usually handled by experienced Savage World GMs.
    • Everyone wants to try to GM this thing.  I think that is a HUGE plus to Savage Worlds.
    • Characters had some cool strengths and weaknesses right off the character build.  This does a lot for balancing the characters and helping to build a background.
    I can't wait until a game gets started.  In the future, I may use this system for online play.
    As a separate short session, we played 'Everyone is John'.  I really have no idea how that game is supposed to be played, but we had a great time muddling our way through it.
    So this is probably my last 'extra' session during the week for a while.  Testing out Lilliput and then trying Savage Worlds was a good experience.  It really showed contrast between doing simple the right way (Savage Worlds) and forcing it (Lilliput).  

    My extra time will probably now go into working on Project Rumeria -- my own game world.

    Thursday, November 15, 2012

    Cut Scene: What Happened to Zirul

    The party killed off the two casters fighting them with Zirul decapitating the second caster since he was nearly dead already.  Zirul charged the group, grabbing three of the other lesser casters and crashing over the side of the mountain with them.  It is unclear where he and they went.
    Zirul, fueled by the blue flaming fiery energy of Iallanis, Giant Goddess of Love, Mercy, and Beauty, took three of the monstrous necormancer abominations into his arms.  By now the waves of energy had made Zirul start to grow, becoming endowed with the strength and size of the giants.  He crushed them together has he lept over the side of the mountain with them.  Falling for several seconds, casters tumbling, Zirul grabbed the Holy Avenger Longsword breathed in blue flames and began slicing at them.  Divine energy crackled in the air like blue lightning as it swept away their magic protections.

    Hitting the side of the mountain in a first bounce, now Zirul and the casters all were spinning.  A cloud of dust erupted and then a blue flash appeared again, Zirul's blade spinning around him, landing critical after critical against the evil falling with him.  Another second and the base of the mountain appeared.  Zirul slowed and floated, not striking the ground except in a light fall.  What was left of the necromancers that landed was swallowed up by the dry ground.

    Zirul pushed himself up off the ground, blue flames still burning in his eyes, blue streaks running through his hair, blue flames on his sword there for a moment and reflecting off the shine of his armor, and then gone as he sheathed it and fell to the ground.  Zirul let out a gasp and he lay there, a huge lump of giant-sized exhaustion at the base of Mount Waterdeep.

    Wednesday, November 14, 2012

    Everyone is John

    Someone pointed me to this game the other day -- it looks interesting.  We may have to try it on one of our off nights.

    Running the Numbers for a Heist

    So Crayla has a Stealth of +7.  According to the one source, guards (this one or this one) have perceptions in the +1 to +4 range which matches other places I have looked.  So given this, what is the probability of pulling off a heist?

    Some aspects to consider:

    • How many guards will there be?
    • How many guards will actually get a perception check against Crayla?
    • What is an acceptable level of risk?
    • What is the likely reward?
    If you check out the Opposed skill check reference sheet here, you can get the opposed skill check probabilities.

    For Crayla, I am +6 to +3 better than the opposing check skill level:

    +3 -- 60% chance of success
    +4 -- 64% chance of success
    +5 -- 68% chance of success
    +6 -- 72% chance of success

    However, each check is independent.  If the GM is fishing for failures by making me make multiple checks, the odds aren't as good:

    Advantage 1 Check 2 Checks 3 Checks 4 Checks
    +3 60% 36% 22% 13%
    +4 64% 41% 36% 17%
    +5 68% 46% 31% 21%
    +6 72% 52% 37% 27%

    In addition, I may need to make a disable device check against a locked object.

    However, add in a potion of invisibility for a +20 to stealth:

    +23 -- 100% chance of success
    +24 -- 100% chance of success
    +25 -- 100% chance of success
    +26 -- 100% chance of success

    And the table above becomes all 100% chance of success too.  Assuming I can get any payoff greater than the cost of the potion, the heist is a go.

    Tuesday, November 13, 2012

    Monday Night Pathfinder Pirates: Clearing the Zelbinion

    Two players were out (Durgen & the Druid) so I played them through and the crew cleared out the three remaining elementals on the lower ship deck.  While Durgen and the Druid repaired the bilge pumps, the rest of the group searched the rooms, carefully avoiding the alchemists lab which had a reasonable chance of blowing up.  Unfortunately, a bomb was triggered in another room, but Kroop was able to disarm it with Sheena's help before it blew a hole in the ship.  With the Zelbinion now cleared, the crew gets to make all the difficult decisions:

    • Who is the new captain?
    • Where are they sailing to?
    • What ship or ships are they taking?
    • Where are they mounting the weapons?
    • How are they going to get one or both of the ships repaired?
    • How are they going to avoid the Zelbinion becoming a focus for other pirates, privateers, and navies?
    The good news is that the group now has several months of rations, so there are lots of options.

    Sunday, November 11, 2012

    Class Guides

    Here's a link the list of guides for most Pathfinder classes.


    Saturday Night Pathfinder: Crayla meets the Party

    On Saturday nights I am now playing in a Pathfinder game.  I'll be recording my adventures from the point of view of Crayla.  So let me tell you about Crayla.

    Crayla is a half-elf level 1 ranger.  She grew up with 10 brothers and a father who was away a good bit of the time acting as a guard for a merchant caravan.  She learned to be tough, quick, and emotionally caustic.  Though she is good looking (fair skin, fiery red hair) her charisma is only average.  She puts people off.  She is quick to insult and quick to anger.

    Crayla is a good shot with a longbow and can spin her short sword in and out of her scabbard and flip it easily across her wrist from side to side (weapon finesse).  She wears a shiny breastplate engraved with various animal markings made by one of her brothers.  It was his way of rubbing in that she had failed her druid training and relegated to just be one of those "woodsy rangers that helps find farmers lost cattle in the woods".  She can sneak around and break into things if needed -- a skill she learned getting her stuff back from her older brothers.  She also has a good eye for trouble.

    As soon as she could get away with it, she left home and headed into the big city.  With no friends and no real way of making friends, she ended up in a lot of bad situations that she had to fight her way out of (favored enemy: human).  With a big chip on her shoulder, she's taken up with an organization that maintains the planes, keeping them from collapsing into oblivion.


    I'm just back from my previous mission with a day off, so I take up shooting at the organization's training range.  A very short drunken human (or a small halfling with tiny feet?) in uniform with Kooper written across it appears and disturbs my practice.  I tell the short drunken idiot to stay out of my range and he dumps ale all over me.  I try to jump him and pin him, but I end up just pushing him a bit.  Damn munchkins are too slippery.  He eventually falls down.  I get in a few good shots before becoming annoyed with the twerp and heading over to trying my short sword at the dummies.

    He, of course, follows , trying his own hand with a katana.  I get in a few hits and decent shield bashes.  A gnome practices nearby with a dagger.  The drunk eventually lobs his katana off the range.  I point the way so he can find it and head back into the local cheap bar.  One ale I'm not going to drink cost only a copper, which is a good deal -- my funds are getting short.  I sit and wait.  Not many people are around wanting to talk.

    The drunken idiot is around, causing a disturbance, as usual.  I listen in and hear guards talking.  The queen dragon's eggs are being guarded for the next week or so until the hatching time.  A guard complains that there are gaps in the security watch.  I note this -- never know when such knowledge can come in handy.  Maybe a heist... maybe a way to gain favor with the elders.

    I go back home -- an apartment to myself.  The quiet is nice, sometimes.  No more 10 brothers lurking around.  Not anyone around.

    The next morning comes early and I am up and around when a messenger knocks.  I still always open the door with short sword in hand.  You never know.  The note tells of a briefing for my next mission.

    Getting into the room is a chore -- same drunken bozo from the night before is trying to bring a big hulking bear into the briefing room.  I notice he has a fish in a glass tank tied to it.  Bozo's zoo?  A little stab with her sword and it is leaking:  maybe he'll get it out of here now.

    Same little gnome from the range, drunken half-sized human, and her -- great.  Gnome is named Peelon?  I don't need to remember that.  Only a gnome would name their kid something with the word pee in it.

    Apparently a town is having a festival and is about to be invaded - something to do with it is threatening the whole plane.  Blah, blah, blah.  Extended mission.  Crap.  I manage to talk the guy in charge to getting us another 1000 gold to prep.

    Shopping for new stuff is good.  Anything new is good.  I grab a new bow (composite longbow str+2) that matches my strength better.  I grab a better set of lockpicking (masterwork thieves tools) tools.  10 potions of  healing (cure light wounds) are next, since I don't trust these two companions to keep me going in a fight.  And arrows -- I almost forgot to grab arrows.

    Getting to the mission departure is easy enough until I see the shortest one is bringing his bear.  The dragon is going to have to carry the bear and the drunken stump is staying on him.  "100 gp if you drop him... just kidding."  The rider gets  good laugh since he doesn't like this clown either.  Hold on and the dragon and rider are away.  Big flash as we jump planes and then we set down in a woods not far from the town.  Stumpy decides the bear is going, so I am getting a head start.  I figure the town's response to the bear rider might give a clue to the towns response to an attack.

    Once in town, I grab a locally-made cloak for a copper to blend in.  Festivities are underway and I slip into the crowd, keeping an eye out for the other two.

    The town has a few guards, sparse, armed with swords and tower shields.  I glean information.  The Cathedral burnt down two years back with the head priest and his daughter inside.  I got their names.

    Only one high bell tower and its probably locked.  I need to make sure that when the attack comes that it isn't locked.  A bow in the bell tower can take out a lot of whatever grimies (slang for monsters) this job throws at me.

    Here comes the bear with some sortof banner.  Way to be subtle.  At least the guard seems to get him to stable the thing.

    I get their attention as they approach.  We chat and agree to split up.

    I head to the cemetery to see if there is anything to notice.  You can tell a lot about a town by its cemetery.  I get the name of the richest family (at least according to mausoleum size) -- Kaijitsu.

    Chatty guys wonders by and offers to help me find a grave.  I use the old 'aunt' story and get a load of info about a noble who pushed his wife off a cliff and an artist that went mad and killed himself, right at the same time that the cathedral burnt down.  Coincidence -- I don't think so.  I don't believe in coincidences.

    So I get a lead on the town jeweler to see if I can find anything on this artist.  An artist that goes crazy was probably a freak, and people keep close watch on freaks.

    The jewelry store is busy on this festival day and staffed by a wife out front and a husband in the back.  I give the story about trying to match ear rings my aunt gave me made by the other artist.  This gal knows nothing, but I caught a nice tidbit, as she warned her hubby not leave the vault wide open again.  Mental note.

    I find the other two.  It's about noon.  Need to get them set up to meet me at the local inn -- the Rusty Dragon -- at sundown.

    Saturday, November 10, 2012

    Cut Scene: The Fate of Owlbear and Captain Jacen

    Looking through the waves of twisted light, a turquoise jelly fish slowly comes into view.  Not a living creature, inside it a bubble of air sustains two humanoids, grasping a rail that runs across the inside of the bubble.  Their eyes turn upward as the oblong hulls of two ships disappear out of sight.  Looking down, below them, 4 kuo-toa fish men pull the bluish air bubble lower and lower into the ocean.

    Owlbear looks at Jacen with sad eyes and grunts.

    Jacen pats him on the back.  "Don't worry Owlbear; I've been in worse situations than this."

    Slowly a shimmering portal comes into view in the sea waters below them.  

    Unseen to the kuo-toa, a small bottle holding a small piece of paper floats away, heading for the surface.  Jacen watches it just for a second and whispers to himself softly unheard to the others, "A little luck".

    The kuo-toa swim up to the edge and then push the whole jelly fish rig in.  The rig, Owlbear, and Jacen disappear.

    Friday, November 9, 2012

    Friday Night Pathfinder: Escape from Waterdeep

    The party as it now stands:

    • Elf Ranger Corrail
    • Winter Wolf Yuri
    • Corrail's Father (Maiali) 
    • Don The Magnificent, an older human bard
    • Ally the Gnome Sorcerer
    • Elliot, Human Cavalier
    • Felix, Half-elf Rogue / Druid
    • Felix's tiger whose name I forget
    • Zirul, Half-elf Cleric
    Zirul and Felix were unmanned tonight.  Prior to reaching the courtyard with the adult red dragon, Felix and the tiger went missing.

    The party grabbed some potions from a potion cart in the courtyard while Don talked to the dragon.  On a lucky diplomacy reroll, Don was able to calm the dragon.  He demanded food and wine, which the party rushed to get, and ate his fill and then flex off to a hidden cave to rest.  Corrail noticed that the dragon had a bit of trouble exiting the city -- was that some sort of barrier?

    With the dragon gone, a massive tidal wave was seen heading into the city.  With seconds to spare, Don teleported the party to the Bowels of the Earth, a local Waterdeep tavern.  The tsunami wave covered about a third of Waterdeep, killing many people.

    The party got a drink of the bar and regrouped before heading towards the mountain.  There a group of Necormancers from the Kraken Society started casting to raise the dead within the city.  This society is known for its desire to waken THE Leivathan, a great continent-sized monster lying at the bottom of the oceans made of leftover chaos from the time of creation.  At the discovery of the scourge of evil, Zirul changes into a blue-flamed god-like force of reckoning.  The party arranged mounts for everyone and quickly got to the mountain before the dead started to walk.

    Climbing the mountain slowed the parties progress.  Zirul moved quickly and untiringly towards the circle of 6 and the 7th lead necromancer.  Corrail and his father fired off arrows as the party came under attack from two of the lesser casters.  The wand of wonder allowed Don to produce a blast of lightning, a wall of cheese, and an octopus on the main caster's head.

    The party killed off the two casters fighting them with Zirul decapitating the second caster since he was nearly dead already.  Zirul charged the group, grabbing three of the other lesser casters and crashing over the side of the mountain with them.  It is unclear where he and they went.

    The party started firing on the main caster and his apprentice as a flash appeared across the sky.  Halaster appeared on the mountain, mumbling about the disturbance.  He blasted the greater caster with 1000 magic missile while the other caster got away.  He then repaired the damage to the city, pushed back the ocean, and sanctified the dead so they would not rise.  Waterdeep looked the same thought many still lie dead.

    Halaster winked and said "Should you be getting to the mountains?" as he stepped away through a magical door.

    And for next time:  finding Flexis, finding Ziruls, finishing up in Waterdeep, and heading toward the Sword Mountains.

    Wednesday, November 7, 2012

    Savage Worlds

    We decided to get out of the house tonight and stop by the local game store.  I grabbed up my new book of Savage Worlds, a few printed out character sheets, GM screen references, and some dice and paper.  The daughterlings put out texts to gamer friends and suddenly we had a 'how the heck do we play Savage Worlds' session.

    Pine Ridge Horror was the session I grabbed to start out.

    With only one book it took us a while to build characters while learning the rules.  It was nice, easy, familiar. Lots of 'pathfinder-like' things in there.  Not a lot of rules.

    We barely got started into the adventure.  I played a character, so we skipped most of the role playing.  

    I think it was a good first session.  At least one of the players offered to possible even GM it sometime, which seems like a really good sign.


    I really need to share this link for Savagepedia anyone interest in Savage Worlds.

    Tuesday, November 6, 2012

    A Toast to New Characters

    New characters are dominating my gaming life right now.  I've gotten a spot in a Saturday night Pathfinder game, so I am underway in building my new character.  The party currently consists of a sorcerer and a cleric, so rogue skills are needed.  I don't really want to play a rogue, though.  I don't even really want to play any class.  So my plan was to make up my own unique combination.

    I want to be able to tank.
    I need a moderate number of skill points, so I can cover rogue skills for traps.
    I need feats, because I want to get a prestige class early.

    Rogues really need dex, so I need to be a quick fighter (dex-based).  Fighter is THE class for feats.  Shadowdancer seems like a fun prestige class that one can hit the requirements for early.

    For race, I looked really close at elf and human.  Human's bonus feat is nice, but only a real advantage at first level.  Elf has nice ability boosts, but half-elf gets a lot of the elf stuff and +2 to any (dex!) and an automatic skill focus.

    Half-elf.  Ranger, fighter, ranger, fighter, ranger, shadowdancer.  Medium armor to start, moving to heavy armor, and eventually transitioning back to light armor as a shadowdancer.

    Because we're sticking with core, I plan on fighting melee with a short sword and shield (heavy, then tower), and fighting ranged with a composite longbow.  A spiked chain would be better, but isn't in core.

    Skills: perception, disable device, and stealth at every level.

    Female.  Red hair.


    On Friday nights, my youngest daughter Sarah is playing a Fighter 5 / Rogue 1 character named Victaerrus.  We're working through her back story and how to fit into the new group.  Her fighter is a melee tank.  She took a rank in every knowledge skill.  In her background, she came from Waterdeep.  Her parents were guards for Waterdeep and she picked up a lot of stories of things from them.  She joined a merchant crew in Waterdeep at 16 as a guard.  On their first voyage, they were overtaken by pirates and she managed to get away on a dinghy.  She was picked up by the Friday night pirate crew.  The captain and first mate treated her badly, but the captain was killed.  Other PCs also have giver her a hard time, as she does what makes sense with little regard for the views of the pirates around her.  Now she tries to find a way to fit into the crew.

    I'm not sure the rest of the officers understands how badly they have treated Victaerrus.  They treat her like a willing part of the crew.  She hasn't been asked to join the crew.  She hasn't been given responsibility.  She has been given little reward.  She has been given no encouragement.  The crew yells at her when she doesn't do what they ask.  How quickly the oppressed become the oppressors.  She is basically a slave.

    Working with Sarah I think we have come up with her plan ahead.  She wants to take power.  With two ships about, it seems like Kroop has a good chance with his influence on the crew of ending up in a position of standing.  Kroop has worked with her, treated her well.  Through him, she can find her place.  Maybe he will grow to like her and help her.  Maybe the crew will like her, even if the officers don't.

    Monday, November 5, 2012

    Monday Night Pirates:: Elemental Problems

    The party continued their exploration of the Zelbinion.  The party found rum rations, rations, and a load of black powder.  In the brig a medium water elemental attacked just after they escaped from a wraith.  One room had forty dead bodies in it.  Another had 4 broken cages, a break in the floor into the hold below, and seven more dead bodies.

    On the lower level, the group awakened two more elementals, a large water elemental and a medium fire elemental.  The battle was still underway at the end of the session.

    Sunday, November 4, 2012

    Friday Night Pathfinder: Froghemoth and Beyond

    The party lined up against the froghemoth.  Elrick charged in and was grabbed up by the monster's mouth.  Several players ran to the nearby stores (Wondrous Items Store and Alchemical Store) looking for valuable items for the battle.  Elrick dumped a mess of fuse grenades down into the monster and lit them up with a fire bomb.  134 damage to the froghemoth left it 2/3 dead.  Thanks to a bit of karma, Elrick was thrown clear.  Yuri blasted it with his breath weapon.  Ally blasted it with magic.  The monster grabbed up Ally and the tiger with his tentacles.  Ally finally took it down with another blast of magic missile.

    The group gathered up and teleported to the Bowels of the Earth where Corrail's father wanted to speak to Mirt.  There the group was attacked by a fire elemental.  All fought hard until Don blasted the elemental with the Wand of Wonder (Wubba Wubba),  shrinking to 10% of its initial size.  Corrail distpatched it by stomping on it.

    Inside the tavern, Corrail's father learned from Mirt that they needed to head towards the castle.  Less than 100 yards away, the castle was an easy run.  Unfortunately the party found their path blocked by a adult red dragon attacking the city.  The group was torn between trying to reason with the dragon or trying to attack it.

    Tuesday, October 30, 2012

    Sunday, October 28, 2012

    Halloween Special Event: Expedition to Castle Ravenloft

    For Halloween, I hosted a special event of "Expedition to Castle Ravenloft" at my home for 6 select gamers from my groups and family.  Unfortunately, one of the players bailed at the last minute, but a party of 5 was sufficient to get going.  There was a plethora of food and drink (no Pinatas).  I tried out the prototype build of my new 'gaming extension table'.  

    The party spent over 3 hours building characters.  We used HeroLab for some and had to fight it a bit on the spell-less ranger build.  The group consisted of:

    • Zephyr, a Kitsune Rogue / Druid
      • Sam the axebeak
    • J, a blind Oread Fighter / Cleric
    • Kratos, a spell-less ranger
      • Lloyd, a wolf
    • Orflex, a half-orc barbarian who flex into a rage anytime anyone messed with his juice
    • Berth, an Aasimar inquisitor
    During one of our breaks.  From left:  My sweetie, my GM assistant, the ranger, and the inqusitor.
    (What's up with black T-shirts and blue jeans -- nearly everyone was wearing that?!?)

    The gaming extension table was a small map-sized table about a foot off the regular table.  We could put stuff underneath like laptops while using the tops for minis and rolling dice.  It was just a bit too high, so the next version will be an inch or two shorter.

    GM's end of the table with the extension table above.

    Extension gaming table with player and GM stuff under.  Orflex is at the end of the table.

    The group of undead hunters was called to the village of Barovia which was facing a zombie infestation.

    The first encounter with zombies really showed the group's strengths.  They quickly took down 8 zombies without issue.

    They searched the town, finding the mansion of the man they were seeking boarded up, barred, and with a woman inside who would not talk to them.  The party split -- J going into the temple, the barbarian going into the local inn/tavern, and the rest checking out the weapons shop.

    The weapons shop had a few zombie rats and zombies inside.  Searching the debris after produced a couple of longswords, including a holy avenger sword good versus undead.

    The temple contained four zombies locked in rooms and a priest praying at the front altar of the temple.  J approached the priest, but he went crazy, yelling "You can't take my son."  and attacked J.  He unleashed 3 of the zombies to assist him.  J tried to take him down with nonlethal damage, but an ill timed critical killed the old priest, leaving him only with an unreadable scrap of paper as a clue.  The party got back together.  The rogue pushed the priests body into his bag of devouring, nearly getting himself pulled in.  The party decided to kill the priest's undead son, the last remaining zombie in the temple.  J channeled positive energy and killed him, ending the zombie plague.

    The party went on to talk to the local girl who now came out of her house.  She was happy the zombie plague was over, but talked of a great evil Count in the local castle who had bit her and was going to take her away.  The party agreed to take care of him in return for payment.

    The whole adventuring moved very slowly in our ten hour session.  It was pretty clear that they weren't going to see much of the castle.  In the end, this first battle turned into the final battle of the night with Count Strahd, a very old vampire.

    Quick-mapping the entryway to Castle Ravenloft.

    The party entered the castle to find two stone dragons, alive but unmoving.  The party repositioned themselves, the dragons moved, and four gargoyles started attacking via fly-by attacks.  The party backed off.  The barbarian charged, the dragons moved, and kicked in their breath weapons against the party.  The group moved in, attacking the foes.  Two animated suits of armor and a large bat appeared.  A full battle ensued.  The bat attacked feebly, draining two levels from the barbarian who seemed to be attacked by everything.

    Eventually the bat flew to the hall and turned into the vampire Count Strahd.  He began spells against the party, generating a hungry pit that swallowed up the inquisitor, and tying up two of the party that were trying to help her out (The Axe-beak and Kratos).  A well-placed fireball by Strahd ended the adventure, burning the ropes in half and dropping the inquisitor back into the pit again.

    J had a bad roll -- you take 5d6 damage.

    Next time, I will plan a shorter adventure to accommodate the slow moving party, and we'll pregenerate all the characters.  We'll also probably have less food to avoid gamers rolling around on the floor saying "I ate too much."

    Zephyr:  "I ate too much."