Posts Tagged With: B2

Session #18 – Roland’s Return…

The session started off on a odd foot because about half the group wasn’t there – KT was up in Milwaukee for a VNV Nation concert, TW hasn’t made the last couple of sessions for various reasons (drill, a nephew’s Confirmation, etc), SS forgot, CW has a new job and works on Sunday afternoons, and KR showed up for her semi-regular late session because of a Sunday morning commitment. So all we had for the entire session was MR, KB & CB, and MS – but everyone seemed to have a fair amount of fun in spite of the odd dynamic.

The first thing is that I simply ruled that the characters whose players weren’t there had all passed out in the aftermath of the Vesna, Gregor, Jezabel, and Gwion raised their voice in a hymn to evil and chaos and the subsequent Doombell ringing. The second thing that I ruled was that while I realized that I had totally reversed the descriptions of two different rooms (the “chapel” and the “temple”) on map, I was just going to run with what I had read. Then I had to decide, essentially off the cuff, as to what I wanted to do because I was two players down.

So out of the “mirror-polished wall with disquieting images moving about within the stone” popped out a random number of spirits (conicidently one for each PC) – which then proceeded to paralyze Ketzl, Gryphon (who promptly Teleported out psychically and hasn’t returned yet), and Gregor (who had discovered that he had evidently just lost his Paladin-status and his Protection from Evil 10’r ability…), they also discovered how Energy Drain works (-1 penalty to Hit,Damage, Saves, and Initiative). Sorer Isabella managed to get off her own prayer of Protection vs Evil and was untouched but watching helplessly, while Tier manged to slay two of the spirits – and get hit for a total of 3 points of Energy Drain before deciding to raise his own Protection vs Evil as well.

Then the big surprise occured as MS’s old character, Roland (the 0-Level Cavalier-Paladin) walked out of the wall. He was looking a bit worse for wear – gaunt, unwholesomely pale, dressed in new armour and with a new weapons. He merely looked at Tier, the erson who had accidently sent him off to the Realm of the Dead, and said “Stop me or step aside.” Tier stepped forward and was struck down – and Roland waled out of the room without a second glance at the party, spirits in tow. Isabella then manageed to heal Tier up from unconsciousness and the two of them started dragging unconscious and paralyzed people from the temple before something new stepped out of the wall.

At this point KR returned so Frater Nikolai and Brother Illya woke up – and since there was no more combat, I had both Gwion and Jezabel wake up as well. The party quickly decided to heal as much as they could and head back to Seraph Keep to get help with what was obviously a very evil place. Amun the Sunhawk had returned, relaying that the Keep still stood and that the people there welcomed the warning (from the vision during the last game session) so the party decided that they would start with the Keep given that this was the closest to civilization despite it being a solid three days away given the shape the party was in.

So after three days of nervous travel, hoping that they don’t run into anything major (and they ran into nothing more than normal forest critters – an almost ominious state of affairs given what they normally have happen in their trips back and forth from the Caves) they come upon a dark and silent Seraph Keep as the shadows of the day grow lang and evening draws nigh…

Yeah, I set the mood well enough that I triggered my spouse PTSD by the way.

The party discovered an abandoned keep where a great slaughter had eveidently taken place and no bodies were to be found – not even of pets or animals. The only living creatures were scavangers.The only two bodies were those of two horses that barely propped open the portcullis, but the gate was wide open and the fires were gutted in their pits. Food and wares were laid out as if a great terror had descended upon the people there almost instantly, and while there was some suggestion that some individuals had fled with their valuables – there was no evidence or looting nor was the church defiled.

But there was evidence that some creatures had been bled out – the ropes and hooks were there in spots and there was much blood.

But no bodies…

And that is where we called it!


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Session #17 – Bad Dreams and Demons

So we picked up the game and pretty much ignored the entire last game session. I cleaned up and cleared up the understanding of banking and taxes in email, and we started up the game on a good note.

The group is sitting at the small valley that houses Caves of Chaos, preparing to explore and re-enter the Caves and do what they can to make sure that they are actually cleared out. As the Society of Light members go about their morning prayers they are all struck by the same vision, an angel weeping blood over a broken sword and battered shield marked with the sigil of the Order Luminous (the obscure sect that mans Seraph Keep – the “Keep on the Borderlands”). As they all come out of the trance-vision, they quickly compare notes (though the fact that the elf Tier is involved in the discussion has Frater Nikolai raising an eyebrow) and after some further discussion with the whole group Sorer Isabella works with her sunhawk, Amon, to ask the Lords of Light for more clarification.

The party quickly decides based on the answers that while there is something kinky going on at the Seraph Keep, there is no chance for them to do anything from a couple of days away (and decide not to ask Gryphon to Teleport there). They send Amun with a message describing the vision and the results of the Contact Other Plane and proceed to investigate the caves. They unfortunately reveal that in the last couple of months that the places has been tossed pretty throughly – and probably not be returning bandits. So, after some more discussion that decide to not bother with the other caves, avoid the magical cave of confusion like the plague, and head right for the larger cave entrance that seems to have had the greatest amount of traffic in and out of it.

This cave is much larger and more finished than the other caves, and also considerably more eerie – there are echoing steps and strange sounds echoing from deeper within the caves. girding themselves they gird their loins and press further into the caves – with the rogues eventually scouting forward and finding a strange temple area with a huge, lurking figure that has evidently been waiting there for them. After a short but terrifying fight (the creatures attacks acted like a poison or disease that would petrify those who succumbed – almost creating the loss of Brother Illya, the Warrior-Monk). But after a short heroic fight, Vesna the mage managed to obliterate it with her very first Lightning Bolt.  The party then almost manged to kill themselves trying to dispose of its heart – the Bless spell caused it to explode in a similar manner as a Fireball.

The session might have ended there, but instead the group decided to investigate the evil chapel temple a bit further – and entranced by the barely understood forms dancing within the stone of the back wall, enough characters raised their voices in a hymn to evil that the great bell that stood near the entrance clanged deeply…

And that’s where I called it.


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Session #16 – A bad day for the DM

Yeah, it’s still taking me some time to recover from it – and I’m not all the way there yet.

This was one of those sessions where I accidently blindsided the players and ended up blindsiding myself as well. Combine it with players swearing and stomping off into other rooms in snits, to me getting incredibly defensive and barely managing not to essentially do the same (many thanks to my spouse KR who did a great job of de-escalating tensions) and this is the sort of game session that has a DM asking why the hell they even bother to DM (or even RPG in general).

It’s not so much that my ego is bruised, I have had things that I though were great or would be fun go incredibly wrong before and come out the other side basically unscathed. THis time it was just one of those perfect storms of people reacting badly, people reacting badly in certain ways, and then me feeling incredibly frustrated because the “way through” (which I’ve already RetConned out the entire session pretty much out of existence though so that’s kind of a non-issue) was easily just to role-play through the problem (which was that the tax-man showed up) and that is basically what KR did.

Now, a couple of players explained that they felt shut down because of the couple of things that they tried that didn’t work. I get that, and I can see how that was and would be frustrating – but it didn’t mean that there wasn’t a whole host of other things to try (which my spouse certainly came up with). And I can certainly admit that I just didn’t quite realize what the tax burden of a couple of the magical items would be for some of the players – so there was some legitimate sticker shock from that quarter. It was that some of the player reactions seemed so out of scale to the situation that really blindsided me.

But all-in-all I walked out of gaming last session with a very bad taste in my mouth.

I have faith that I can get back the enjoyment and the excitement I’ve been feeling playing 1E again, but I’m kinda “meh” right now with the idea of gaming. I probably need to run some solo stuff with my son (his ranger is running around solo right now) and my spouse (she has a handful of solo characters doing their thing as well) – both of these have the potential to rekindle the flame after the cold bucket of water that was the last session.

And yes, this is my 100th Post here. Yippie…


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Points of Light, Points of Darkness…

I just realized something, as I was pondering the “Points of Light” concept that was the “focus” of 4E campaign design – I’m not sure how much campaign design ever really played into 4E based on what I read, but I’ll give them the idea at least. The concept is a rather old one, and is certainly a trope in many ways, the focus of the action is that there are pockets of civilization (the points of light) within vast seas of surrounding wilderness and savagery (the darkness). As a note, most modern day occult campaigns (or even historical occult/horror games like Call of Cthulhu) work off the opposite conceit, that there are Points of Darkness (Innsmouth, the Succubus Club, etc) that exist with the vast light of modern civilization.

This really does make an excellent basis for a open-ended hexcrawl, where the players start out in one point of light and then travel via exploration to the next point of light – or even in the endgame create their own point of light (pretty much the assumption in much of the OSR rulesets). But it doesn’t work so well in a game like mine, where at one point in the distant past it most certainly was a hexcrawl in some ways. It was a big world, much of it was undeveloped, and the players and I could just make stuff up as was needed.

Jump forward 32 years and the world is pretty well-developed. Now, I’ve certainly created and maintained areas that are hexcrawlish – but the wilderness is dangerous and it really isn’t that suitable for low-level types. I don’t think that Daniel Boone, Lewis and Clark, or Sir Richard Burton were 1st level characters…

So what the hell do you do?

One of the problems with Points of Darkness is that they have to be either very secretive or very powerful or both in order to survive in a world full of light. I think that this is what makes some of those classic modules work well – T1 The Village of Hommlet, U1 The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God, and even something like A1, Slavepits of the Undercity were all about hidden threats within civilized lands, the characters know that there is a “problem” but it’s true extent isn’t understood and the characters must uncover it in order to be successful. These were, in all seriousness, much more like a good Call of Cthulhu scenario than a “dungeon crawl”.

In modules like L1 The Secret of Bone Hill there was a bit more of a Point of Darkness vibe, the same with modules S1 Tomb of Horrors, S2 White Plume Mountain, and s4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojanth (along with it’s companion WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun). The characters know that there is a “bad spot” and specifically go out to deal with it, often in a very dungeon-crawl-like manner. Now, in the A-Series and the U-Series the characters are drawn further out into the “Sea of Darkness” and away from the safety of the “Point of Light” – but it certainly isn’t a hexcrawl in any way shape or form and it is all predicated on the success of the initial investigation and adventure.

Similarly, as much-loved as they are, the G-Series and the D-series are neither points of Light or Darkness. The former are simple Special Forces or Navy SEAL search and destroy missions, while the latter is a basically one doozy of a LRRP (Long-Range Reconnaissance Patrols, a Vietnam-era designation) mission that combines recon with assassination. This is likely an artifact of the tournament design of the modules, but it also made for a very simple game. You went in and killed everything, with a minimum of puzzle-solving, or you snuck around and hoped to survive till you reached your target (when you killed everything).

I’ve realized that part of my struggle with B2 has been to reconcile the “Point of Light” style of the module with a campaign world that isn’t very “Point of Light” in nature. I’ve made it work, and even though I’ve just come up with a rather radical and horrifying turn of events for Castle Seraph itself, I need to keep in mind that my world isn’t a OSR hexcrawl and trying to treat it as such is just frustrating for me (and the players I think, mostly because my own frustration with things or inability to quite make things work in my own head comes out in my DMing).



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Now what..? – Session #15

So we ended the last session with the players having managed to kill an Adult Fire Drake, this begs the question of what do you do with a fifty-foot-long, several-ton-body  of a highly magical beast right on top of the area that you want keep exploring?

You send the teleporting Dwarf and the mage off to the big city to negotiate with the Mage’s Guild to sell the body.

There was the possibility of dealing with the Druids, but nobody even really spoke up for the that option, so the Mages and Alchemists Local #314 pretty much won by default. Also, incidentally, cementing one of the local power groups offering Vesna (the mage) a spot in their ranks, so she has now joined the Ebon Cabal (as has the dwarf Gryphon as well, not that the group knows).

The Guild sent out a representative to confirm the body, and come up with a number to offer the group. and then sent out a retrieval team to chop it up when they accepted. It wasn’t really that hard of a decision, first they didn’t really have much of a choice, and second, it is hard to turn down 60K in cold, hard, cash silver when someone offers it to you. It hurts, because you know how much it actually has to be worth if they are handing over 60K to you, but at the same time it is such easy money after then fact. For those who care, I simply came to the number with a simple formula of 1K per HP – which would be adjusted by the types and manner of damage it accumulated while being killed.

Plus, about half the party ended up needing to take some time to train and advance. This was that sweet moment for Vesna and Frater Nikolai both when they made it to 5th level – and Vesna for once actually made her roll and learned Lightning Bolt instead of having to run through a handful of spells before finally making her roll. A number of other characters also leveled up, and Brother Gregor has actually survived to 3rd level and full Paladin status. But the party now has a cleric with third level spells and a mage with third level spells – life is about to get interesting for everyone…

We also rotated characters a bit. CB had to bring in a replacement for Arvid (slain by the Owlbear) and so Sorer Isabella, a half-elven Cleric/Mage of the Society of Light made her appearance and my son had managed through role-play to get Tier back to the Mortal Realms from the Shadowlands (with some significant changes) so he rotated out Taloth for Tier. We decided that Taloth was travelling south to take the coins and sword of Arvid back to his family, and maybe we’ll end up with a small solo adventure or two along the way.

So, the party split up treasure (including a cool 6K in silver for each surviving member of the band) and bought equipment and gear with which to hopefully manage to finally explore the rest of the Caves of Chaos – and actually came up with a series of ideas to simply block off the smaller caverns and only explore the main one so that they could move on quickly to perhaps figuring out where the Fire Drake’s lair is and looting it.

The day ended with a short combat against a lone, runty Hill Troll that was more terrifying than actually dangerous. Next session will be about exploring the Caves of Chaos, but also with a short visit from someone who the players will recognize but the party has never met – and something that will in turn likely freak both party and players out and provide everyone with a certain amount of amusement as well as groans about general the unfairness of DMs…


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OMGWTFBBQITSA… – Session #14

So, we had some excitement…

First, we started out the New Year by gaming on Sunday, January 1st. It was rather nice because while my son, MR, was off visiting his mother (this was the down-side and we all missed him) we did have SS and CW up from Indiana because they were staying with us and visiting for the weekend. This itself caused some problems because SS wanted to get in a bit of solo adventuring in with Smjor – just taking him out to hunt or something.

In the monster infested wilderness.

Normally, I wouldn’t let someone play “out of sequence” that way, but SS does live in another state and Smjor was just standing around last session, so if the worst occurred and he died, there wasn’t any continuity problem…

You can see what is coming can’t you?

So, Smjor had gotten bored sitting around and drinking at Seraph Keep and decided to just go out and hunt and maybe bring down a deer. The plan was that he would get up before dawn, walk out about four hours, sit for awhile, and then walk back in the same day. Of course, he saw a deer on the very first roll and blew the surprise roll – so what he really saw was the ass-end of a deer as it bounded away from him.

For anyone who has gone deer hunting this should be a familiar memory… I even joked that he knew this meant that would be the last deer he saw that day and he should just head back in now…

But he continued, without finding anything of interest and finally found a spot to hunker down – at which point I rolled the encounter that killed him – a Goblin Scouting Party. It ended up being sixteen goblins, led by a hobgoblin, and the simple fact is that if he had had even one more person with him he would have lived. The biggest problem is that goblins, while stupid, are cunning and if there is one thing they know how to do it’s small unit tactics that involve hunting… They needed 20’s to Hit (so that means that if they hit, it also really hurt because of the double damage rule) and they were using thier normal poison (make a save or take an additional 8HP of damage over the next two rounds).

Smjor only blew one save, but he was hit four times, even after running, engaging the small groups that got too close, but one of the goblins was promoted to hobgoblin and is on the short list for Redcap after “Two-20ing” him (an instant kill) – it was actually insult on top of injury because he would have died anyways given the rest of the damage he’d taken with the other arrows that same round.

So SS ended up rolling up stats for the bard that had technically joined the group last session. Valdamir Gwion is is name, and this prompted a pretty major re-write of the Bard as I tried to make sense of of my old version, which was based on a couple of different articles from the Dragon and dropped the sheer craziness of the PH version. To replace it with other craziness I suppose, but this one actually parallels the Druid in many, many ways and makes a great deal more sense to me.

So, we then return to the Caves of Chaos – and most especially the Maze of Twisty Passages, All Alike.

After wandering around a fair amount, the rogues all decide to bite the bullet and risk having Gryphon teleport out with all of them. It works (he makes his save and doesn’t teleport into a rock or something) and they end up, safe and sound, back at the spot where the “main party” had been waiting.

Of course, the main party wasn’t there because they had only shortly before responded to the screams of agony and terror that came when the Rangers were investigating one of the cave mouths (Section ?) and Arvid was charged by an Owlbear. As has noted before before, bears are about as nasty as you can get when it comes to natural creatures, and owlbears are no different. It should be noted, that Arvid was the same ranger that had problems with the bears in that session as well. The short version is that the owlbear charged out, with with the claw/bite, and rolled well enough for the hug/trample and fumbled with one claw – interpreted as the owlbear falling on top of Arvid. The rangers had all managed to hit it but not kill it, and the the second round, initiatives were rolled, and the owlbear basically bit the head off of Arvid (he was down to something like -27 or something) befor Taloth could nail it with one last arrow and bring it down.

So, this weekend saw the end of two characters – both of whom had been 3rd level and were certainly effective characters. Hell Smjor was a massive tank and pretty much cut his way through anything he ran up against – but enough missile fire will know most anyone down, and owlbears? 16HP of damage per round average if they hit with everything, 25HP if they roll well enough to hug/trample as well (the max is 24HP and 40HP per round) – without any critical strikes!

So, we would think that this was enough for New Years Day right? Nope, that was only the first couple of hours of play. They still had to get through the night, have a ceremony for Arvid, and figure out what to do next. The first nasty encounter of the night was a pack of wolves, the party actually did real well – while one of the horses broke it’s tether and fled to a horrible death, the party stayed put, built up the fire, and just made a point of doing their best to calm the rest of the horses.

Then, only an hour or so later, I rollled perhaps the scariest thing that I can.

A Fire Drake, and solid adult one.

Imagine a standard AD&D 1E red dragon, drop the wings, drop the speech and magic use, double the attacks if it doesn’t breathe, let it breath as many times as it likes but for no more total damage than triple it’s HP, give it a tail lash, maybe a kick as well and a bonus to hit and damage equal to it’s age category, give it 1HP regeneration each round until dead for each age cateegory, and you have a fire drake (do similar things for the other evil dragons and you have my “drakes”). It sneaks up to just outside short range of bows, but inside range of it’s breath weapon, and I call for surprise rolls.

For the record, this is -1 AC, 12HD, 60HP Fire Drake.

Of all things, Illya the Warrior-Monk and Gryphon the dwark manage to get surprise on it, and everyone else (save Gregor, who was surprised) is not surprised at all (the drake didn’t realize that everyone was just hunkered down waiting for the wolves to come back and weren’t really sleeping). Illya charges in, and manages to hit with an Interrupt Technique – this disrupts the next attack of the target (*cough* the breath weapon attack it was planning *cough*), and manages on the third attempt to land a “Sticking Hand” Technique (+2 to Hit and -2 to AC for Illya). Gryphon breaks the bowstring on his crossbow (a fumble). So, no damage on the drake yet, but the drake is totally disrupted.

In the following round, Taloth runs up on the drake in movement to get within point blank range, the party scatters to avoid the breath weapon, Gryphon teleports behind it hoping that it’s close enough to a swamp drake that he can backstab it (it isn’t), and Jezebel nails it with a Faerie Fire so it is +4 to be Hit. Everybody makes thier save vs. the Fear aura. Illya nails it hard with an open hand attack, the dragon nails him with a single claw in return and misses Taloth with a bite, and misses Gryphon with the tail lash (this drake was obviously very, very disrupted, but rather than say than say that because it’s breath weapon was disrupted for this round that it gets no attacks I just gave it one set of claw/claw/bite) – Taloth hits it with two arrows (point blank range for double damage), Gryphon hits it with a fighting knife – and this creature is close to dead – it has taken 59 HP of damage out of 60HP in one round.

The next round it just runs away, Gryphon misses his opportunity attack, Illya just lets it run away and doesn’t choose to cling to it with his Sticking Touch Technique which I declare to be his free action, Jezebel misses with her arrows from long range, and Taloth…

Hits the drake (now with a whole 7HP after regeneration) with one arrow at medium range and brings it  down.


And that is pretty much where we left it – what a start to the new year!


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A maze of twisty passages, all alike… – Session #13 (Part Two)

So, the group gathered itself together and then headed off down the road. They were intending on finishing off the exploration of the Caves of Chaos – and already had some worrisome news. The castellan of the keep had informed the group that he had sent out two groups to investigate the Caves – one immediately after the group had returned and another only about a week prior. The first group had confirmed the party’s story, made sure the bodies of the goblins were burned adequately, and then returned to the Keep. The second group had been sent off to check up on the rea and hasn’t returned yet, but it was still within the normal range of time for the trip there and back.

For the party it was about a four-day journey on foot to the Caves, and they arrived with a minimum of fuss. The group was a bit surprised at the lack of encounters, and I pointed out that the sheer number of goblins (who had only been gone for a month at this point) had pretty much run off anything else “monster-ish” from the area. Plus, the party had three rangers (I have a house rule that says rangers can support one person per level just through incidental hunting and harvesting over the course of the day), plus a barbarian and a monk (who can both support themselves, though not any additional characters, according to the same house rule) so there wasn’t any need for them to be hunting for bigger game to feed the party. It’s that hunting for game that ends up being a huge source of random encounters.

Plus, it’s a group of thirteen characters with a three horses and three pack-ponies. This is a warband not a handful of adventurers just kind of sneaking around hoping not to run into anything. First, this group can’t really sneak very well (members can, but not the group as a whole) and second, there really isn’t any non-intelligent natural creature that is going to bother a group this large – and most intelligent creatures aren’t going to either. The group is just too darn large for anything short of a drake or a dragon to want to mess with it.

So, in any case, the party makes it to the small narrow valley that houses the Caves of Chaos in its cliffs. The burned heap of decapitated goblins is still there, undisturbed as far as they can tell, and a quick bit of scouting by the rangers shows no evidence of any further goblin or bandit activity in the valley. There is also no sign of the soldiers from the Keep. After quickly walking through the cave that they had already cleared to confirm that it was still uninhabited, the group decided to split into three groups and do a preliminary search of the area.

Group One was Frater Nikolai, Brother Illya, Gregor, Vesna, Gwion, Grayleaf, and Smjor. This group was basically stayed in the center area to respond any threats or calls for help from either of the two other groups. Somewhat bored, they quickly started playing cards and basically spent their time waiting for the other two groups to get done. While they can’t keep a visual on the other groups the entire time, they do have a close sense of where they are in the valley and what areas they are investigating.

Group Three was the rangers, Jezebel, Taloth, and Arvid. They were making a point of investigating the various copses of trees in the area looking for more cave entrances. They knew from the last visit that there were a bunch of cave entrances, and that there was at least one hidden in some woods, so they decided to make sure (as best they could) that there weren’t any more. Of course, starting on the south side of the valley, they almost immediately discovered another one – with ogre tracks at least a month old going into and out of the entrance (Section E). Leaving it be until the whole party could be gathered, they quickly moved onto the other areas and kept the search going on.

Group Three were the rogues, Mika, Ketzl, and Gryphon (sans Greyleaf since his player was MIA). The job was to check out the entrances of each cave entrance, no more than twenty feet or so in, and just make sure that there weren’t any traps or other surprises. The nice part about this group is that each of th characters can make themselves invisible in some way – Mika has a Ring of Invisibility, Ketzl has the Invisibility spell, and Gryphon has his psychic Invisibility Minor Devotion. Plus, Mika has a dagger that detects large mechanical traps in a 10′ radius, so they are hoping that this will do most of the work for themselves. Staring on the north side of the valley they discover traps in two out of the first three entrances investigated, a pit trap in the first cave entrance (Section A) and a dropping tarred net trap in the third (Section H). The second cave (Section C) entrance had a weird invitational sign written in Dark Tongue (the goblin language), and while the group didn’t investigate any further, the presence of that was worrisome as far as they were concerned.

But that really wasn’t as worrisome as the fourth cave entrance. This area would soon spawn the most memorable line of the afternoon to come from my mouth, and the folks who are following along at home reading the module can probably guess in part why. This section was much more of an immediate warren of smaller passages (Section I), and the group decided that while they would go any further than their “twenty foot” limit they would investigate each little passage as much as they could. Then, upon hearing some squeaking and whistling coming from a small adjoining passage, Ketzl decided that it was worth investigating – and immediately started getting dive-bombed by something that he can’t quite see what they are.

As an aside, stirges are really nasty opponents for low-level parties. I’ve decimated mid- and high-level groups with stirges, and I had forgotten just how quickly they can do the job. The only saving grace is that everyone is invisible…

So Ketzl gets nailed by four stirges, and he wisely decides that it is time to run out of the room back to the party. This is where the memorable line comes in. “So, you hear Ketzl yelling about ‘blood-sucking demon bats’ and then run out of the room – away from you.”

KB: “Wha- what?”

Me: “Yeah, you are really confused as to the directions. You think you were running back towards Mika and Gryphon, but ran the other direction instead. There’s a misdirection spell going.”

KB: “Errr… Don’t I get a saving throw?”

Me: “Nope.”

KB: “But I’m an illusionist! I should get something. That doesn’t make sense.”

Me: “This is a module!”

Which immediately had KB (who’s been playing since the days of OD&D and the little books) and the rest of the group immediately cracking up in laughter.

We wrapped up the game for the afternoon shortly afterwords. Mika ran in after Ketzl and was also dive-bombed by stirges, Gryphon ran down the other direction. A couple of rounds later, and handful of dead stirges and some luck, and the group of three rogues have all ended up in the same area but well aware that something is seriously screwed with this section of caves. We’ll probably pick up next session with Gryphon attempting teleport them out of the caves – but I’m actually thinking that the misdirection is going to work on that attempt as well. I’m not sure where he’ll teleport to, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be to where he’s expecting to.

So, no easy out for those players…



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So, there were a bunch of goblins and some bandits… – Session #13 (Part One)

So we did some emailing back and forth between yesterday’s session and the previous one and the party decided that yes they really needed to go back to the keep before exploring the caves in order to tell the garrison there what they had discovered (and done) – and incidentally end up taking a break for both “T&T” (training and treasure division) and “R&R” (rest and relaxation). So while the party did a quick and dirty recon of the area, and burned the hell out of all of the goblin bodies. They didn’t explore anything else and simply went back to Seraph Keep – and certainly with their heads held high!

The training was the important piece – everyone went up a level (in every class that they had chance to advance in) and the thieves all went up two levels in Thief. I had to do some real “cogitating” on that, as the standard rules say (IIRC) that characters can only go up one level at a time and I’ve seen all sort of ways to handle that – and none of them really appealed to me as I looked at my conceptual options (most seemed too darn fiddly). The only time this is ever really an issue is at low levels, after about level three or four it is hardly ever an issue (save for thieves, with a massive amount of XP, and then only in the 4th-to-5th level range).

But this also required that the thieves all take advantage of Gryphon’s newly discovered ability to teleport using his psionics (as did Astrin). So they all bugged out to “the big city” and spent the month drinking, wenching, and joining the local thieves guild – though Ketzl the gnomish illusionist/thief (and noble) ended up paying out the nose for the “gentleman’s thief” exemption – meaning that while he’s not a member of the guild, he won’t get in trouble with the guild for doing any thieving as long as it’s not cutting into their bread-and-butter.

The rangers all made it to third level, and Jezebel made it to 3rd level as a druid – so she certainly had to go get initiated into the “1st Circle” while they all needed to get formally inducted into their lodges. They were dragged up into the mountains to a hidden valley to do their training, and even met some of the VIPs of the Old Faith and the Circle (sort of a Harper-esque organization). The other bonus was that Smjor was able to get access to a druid to scry out a the geas he needs for advancing to the next level. It was “Never enter a cairn on Imbolc” – so no grave-robbing for the holidays.

And finally, the SOL folks (along with Vesna) stayed at Seraph Keep and did some basic training and took advantage of the gratitude of the castellan who gave them free room-and-board because of what they had all done. Nobody has significant level gains, but Frater Nikolai had done so well that he was inducted into the Order Luminous, an obscure order of the SOL that was founded during the Wars of Binding and is located in the local mountain ranges (and stolen from the 3.5E module Shattered Gates of Slaughtergarde – do we have a hint of what is coming soon?). Gregor the paladin was also informed that as soon as he made it to 3rd level he would also be welcome to apply for membership (and was encouraged to do so). Brother Illya bounced up two level in Psionicist, from 1st to 3rd, and rolled about as lucky as you can imagine (ended up with Cell Adjustment…) and in conversation with the guy he’s been training with has started to get a sense of what the “Serene Guardians” philosophy is and has the sense that if he keeps doing it he might be able to figure out how to apply it.

As the party gathered together at the end of the month to decide what to do next it was pretty much a forgone conclusion that they would be returning to the Caves to do a more thorough exploration – and then perhaps make a stab at tracking down the bandits wherever they might be. There was one, somewhat significant change – while Gryphon was continuing to travel with the party, Astrin had remained back in town to do whatever mysterious things that she did when away from the party. On the other hand, a young bard by the name of Gwion had asked “the Rangers” if it was ok for him to tag along so that he could “immortalize them in song and legend” – the idea of having their own press corp like the USMC was quickly agreed to by the rest of the party.

So the party is as follows:

Frater Nikolai – LG – Human Male – Cleric(Fighter) – 4(1) – Still the de facto leader pretty much.
Brother Illya – LG – High Man Male – Warrior-Monk/Psionicist – 3/3 (Psychic) – I am INVINCIBLE!
Brother Gregor – LG – Human Male – Paladin(Thief) – 2(1) – Just let me survive another level…
Mika – CN – Human Female – Thief – 6 – I have an Ring of Invisibility! I have a Ring of Invisibility!
Ketzl Silvermoraine – CN – Gnome Male – Illusionist/Thief – 3/4 – Gentleman Rogue, and now he has Invisibility!
Greyleaf – CN – Half-Elf Male – Sorcerer/Thief – 2/3 (Psychic) – Keeping his head down.
Jezebel – NG – Half-Elf Male – Ranger/Druid – 3/3 – Hey, these rangers aren’t that bad…
Taloth Darkbane – CG – Human Male – Archer-Ranger – 3 – Thrilled with his new broadsword!
Arvid – NG – Half-Elf Male – Ranger – 3 – Quite happy with his new doublemail.
Smjor – LN – Human Male – Barbarian – 3 – Thrilled with his bunny and his gauntlet!
Vesna – TN – Human Female – Mage – 4 – She want’s those bandit mage’s spellbooks!
(NPC) Gryphon – CN – Dwarf Male – Fighter/Thief – 4/5 (Psychic) – It’ all about *chest-thump* Brotherhood…
(NPC) Gwion – NG – Human Male – Bard – 1 – Wide-eyed and excited!

And from there, they bought a couple of ponies and started off down the road, back to the Caves of Chaos…



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Battle at the Caves of Chaos – Session #12

Yeah, it’s taken me a week or so to get my head around the last session. Everyone showed up except for TW, who couldn’t make it much to his disappointment, and it didn’t go at all the way that they were expecting.

We started with Ketzl and Greyleaf, because KB hadn’t made it last week, and we picked up with those two characters coming up to the Caves of Chaos, finding much to their surprise a whole bunch of bandits and goblins essentially milling about in the valley, obviously focused on one of the cave mouths.

When I say “a whole bunch” I mean in the neighborhood of about 60 or so bandits and close to a hundred assorted goblins (from 1-1HD types all the way up to 3+1 HD Black Goblins and 2+2HD Ash Goblins and a bunch of shaman) Plus the bandits have some guy in plate & chain directing them around and a guy in robes following him around.

Numbers-wise, this isn’t anything that the module wouldn’t have thrown at the party – just not all in one fell swoop. Plus, for those of you who have the module, you should be well-aware that there are some things in the module that simply make no sense given what else is in the module – they simply shouldn’t exist give the levels of the bad guys.

So, this is what happens when the good guys wipe out everything that the bad guys throw at them. The bad guys don’t fool around any more – they set out a sacrificial goat (aka a tortured traitor on a stick…) and see if anyone bites.

So all the while that the party was in killing more bandits inside one of the caves (who were pretty much expecting them but simply outclassed in that ratio) they were all pouring out of the rest of the caves or riding in quickly from nearby. The party just didn’t pick the cave the bandits had expected them to, not that it mattered that much I suppose.

Now, while the Ketzl and Greyleaf all-but-crap-their-pants and quickly decide to start sneaking around the ridge to do something (KB actually had an excellent use of his Phantasmal Force picked out that I never would have thought of) Jezabel’s pet hawks and Vesna’s raven familiar were sitting outside the cave mouth keeping watch. There were a couple of more character just inside the cave mouth, but far enough back that they wouldn’t hear anything (though I did have them roll).

The goblin sharpshooters sneak up and… Roll like crap.

One of the hawks gets winged a bit but they both fly off. The raven actually gets hit and rolls crap damage too. Too injured to fly, but alive, the raven is now scrambling into the cave where it is immediately out of sight.

…And the party is warned.

Outside the bandits and goblins kick it into high gear, they are all getting into positions, and Ketzl and Greyleaf try their best to pick things as far as moving goes up but not get caught. Inside, the party immediately takes up defensive positions at the natural (and quite effective) chokepoints just inside the and waits for the inevitable onslaught.

And waits.

And waits.

And waits.

After after 30-45 minutes the party realizes that they aren’t getting charged. Now this has them worried, it certainly as Ketzl worried because these bandits are way, way too cool and they are taking their own sweet time.

Vesna decides to go peer outside (Gregor the new Paladin following behind because he’s supposed to protect her) and see if she can see anything to nuke with the Wand of Frost. She belly crawls up to the cave entrance and… the goblins patiently waiting for someone to show themselves catch sight of her and one even manages to nail her with an arrow. Crummy damage, and she makes her save vs. poison so she’s fine.

Just crawling her behind back away from the edge as fast as she can – with Frater Nikolai frowning at Gregor because this didn’t exactly meet his definition of “taking care of”. There is a quick debate about what the hell to do, because the party certainly isn’t thrilled with the information that Vesna was able to glean from her quick glance.

Astrin reveals that she can get out of the cave safely and probably in and amongst them (using a Wraithform spell), while Gryphon has an idea…

So, here is where game narrative and game mechanics meet. Gryphon the dwarf had just recently picked up the psionic Teleport science, but I for the life could figure out how he would have figured this out. But the pressure of almost certain death seems like a decent motivator to try something new..?

“So, there’s a chance I might be able to do something. I think I can take one or two people with me and it will either work, or… just imagine a warm summer mist of gore… Like every little piece of you exploding or something. It shouldn’t hurt. Anyone want to try it with me? If it works, I don’t know how many times I’ll be able to do it.”

That was a bit of a debate, and eventually both Mika (the other sneaky type) and Vesna (the mage with the Wand of Frost) – coincidently both played by the same player, KT – decide to go with Gryphon because that leaves a good combat reserve inside and sneaky types outside plus the “artillery support” out where it could see what to do.

And it worked.

Better than they would have expected. And after getting their bearings, they see the bandits and the goblins in the rear-areas are not exactly “primed” – and doing the T-Port was way, way easier (e.g. cheaper in psionic strength) than he expected. He makes an immediate change in the game plan in Chaotic Neutral fashion- and grabs Mika with a quick explanation and the two T-Port down right behind the mage and backstab him.

And immediately T-port away again with his body.

Repeat ASAP on the bandit leader in chain and plate – the dual backstab attack doesn’t immediately take him out but they beat him on initiative and drop him in what is essentially moments.

Rinse and repeat.

The bandits are thrown into utter disarray – they aren’t exactly sure what happened but both of their leaders are gone and the was screaming and blood on the ground. And some people saw enough to know things are bad – the bandits are blowing their morale check even as we speak. Plus, Astrin starts working her mojo and summons up some of her “ghostly elvish warriors” and starts reaping her way through the goblins archers hiding in the trees.

Gryphon has enough for one more round trip, so they do the same with the big ash goblin shaman who seems to be directing things over on that side. This isn’t nearly as seamless as the first two, but sure enough, they manage to drop him as well and get away with the body…

The goblins are holding morale, but things are starting to fray badly when it comes to leadership. The ash goblins ruin into the trees to take care of the “demon elves” in there while the majority of the other goblins are running out. They start to retreat and head back to the caves while the bandits are riding off into the mountains. But at this point Kezl has seen what is going on and had started a simple but incredibly effective little illusion over at one of the other cave mouths of two paladins of the society of light in full plate armour jeering and cat-calling at the goblins – and that sends the black goblins off to champing at the bit to attack – but also has the goblins (and the few bandits who see the illusion) freaking out.

And then Vesna starts dropping a Ice Storms on the goblins.

If that wasn’t enough – the party has heard the commotion outside (this has only been about 4-5 rounds or so) and decide to take advantage of the chaos. The rangers stay with the high ground and start sniping the shaman or anything else that looks like it is rallying goblins – while Smjor and Illya charge down the hill to engage in melee…

The goblins rout, they run in circles while getting Ice Stormed, and the archers pretty much drop anything that moves and looks interesting, and Smjor goes toe-to-toe with an ogre and survives (barely) while Illya does his regular dance of tying up targets better than he does actually doing damage. They get wiped out pretty much to the man, while the bandits all manage to flee successfully (with the party’s horses and extra equipment as they find out later) – save for the two big leader types.

Now, while I could say that it was all Gryphon and Mika, with the extra help with Vesna, I have to say that the thing that most pushed things over the edge and disrupted the bad guys the most it would be Ketzl and his two first level spells (Phantasmal Force and Audible Glammer). Things went from confusing and obviously bad to “OMGWTFBBQ! There’s an Society of Light warband here along with Rangers of the Old Faith! Cheese it! It’s the cops! We have been discovered! Run away!”

Would it have worked without so much already existing disruption? Probably not. But he was aiming for a distraction in the hopes of drawing some goblins away from the main party and instead ended up crushing the morale of pretty much all the bad guys. And that keep things confused enough on the ground that the goblins were pinned in the low ground that ended up being a killing zone…

And here I thought that I was going to get to talk the party into surrendering and then have them sold into slavery from which they would have to escape.


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The Caves of Chaos (Section B) – Session #11

So, the last session saw some interesting progress. Everyone was able to show up except for KB (who was doing computer tear-down for a local con) and TW (who had his kids this weekend), so the group decided to leave Ketzl and Greyleaf back at the camp to burn bodies and otherwise try to make sure that they weren’t going to rise from the dead like the bandits that they had killed.

At this point I did channel TW (perfectly according to my spouse) who proceeded to “lay on hands” to all of the wounded females in the party using his psionic Cell Adjustment.

“Please, I don’t mean to be forward, but if I might, well, lay my hands upon you, I would be able to help with those grevious… wounds of yours. Please, lay down, this can be quite overwhelming and I don’t want you to feel faint and fall. Now, we must breath as one, we must be as one – well not quite like that, at least not here in front everyone, I do understand the desire to show gratitude but this isn’t really the time or place – Errr… where was I? Yes, we have to synchronize out heartbeats as well as our breathing. Pardon me, but I need to listen to heartbeat, I’ll just lay my head there on your chest. I’m sorry, could you just unlace your tunic a bit, I can’t really hear….”

You have to understand, TW once spent fifteen minutes describing how his Traveller noble put on his gloves with such comic detail he had the entire group practically crying we were laughing so hard. I channeled him to great effect, though I suspect not nearly as well as he could have done himself if had been inspired.

After that, the group moved out and quickly ran into MS’s new character – he rolled well enough to generate not only another Paladin, but when he came up with social class he rolled Middle Lower Class – meaning that he could take Thief as a dual-class. So he did, the character, Gregor, still needs a bit of fleshing out, but is quite interesting so far and has been put on mage-guarding duty. I’m not sure how Vesna feels about this, but he’s quite happy to help out Frater Nikolai however seems to make sense.

The group moved in close to the Caves of Chaos, and then decided to send the stealthy types on ahead. So Mika, Brother Illya, Gryphon, and Astrin (with Vesna’s raven familiar, Bran) were sent off to see what they discover about the caves and then report back. The raven had already reported some bodies on stakes at the valley entrance so the group wasn’t exactly sure what they would discover.

To their horror it was the bodies of the bandits they had set loose – with the one who had spoken to them still alive, impaled on a pike – but with his hands, feet, eyelids, tongue, nose, and ears cut off and healed (and gelded too for what it was worth) so that he was suffering but living there on the end of stick. One crossbow bolt from Gryphon later and the poor bandit was out of his misery – though Brother Illya suffered a little twinge of LG unease at not asking him if he wanted to be put out of his misery first…

The rest of the party moved up, and as they surveyed the valley they could see the various cave mouths open, with trails running up to them. Taking the horses away for safety they decided to enter the uppermost cave on the right side of the valley first (Section B for those of you who are following along at home). Sending Gryphon in first (Mr. Psionic Invisibility) while the rest of the party waiting to hear a ruckus, they soon went charging in as the alarm was raised by guards noticing the body of the watcher that Gryphon had slain – he was pretty much taking care of the first guard-room all himself as the party rushed in.

Quickly, the party began cutting through the bandits, who stopped them somewhat at the entrance to “Feast Hall” but the party really was overwhelming for a bunch of bandits. The leader, with a dagger to the throat of a woman, walked out and demanded that the party stop and negotiate and as Brother Illya spoke to him Astrin pulled out her Darter and Assassinated him from around the corner. As Jezabel moved to comfort the screaming, blood-covered woman she was shocked to have the woman backstab her with a poison dagger (luckily the save was made). To her dismay, Astrin put a Darter round in the lady as well – Jezebel was quite put out by this, wanting to kill the woman herself.

Searching out the Feast Hall and the Barracks revealed no more bandits, so the party moved up the sloping corridor to the north and checked out the store-room and then bandit leaders room – unfortunately discovering that the door was trapped. Mika the Thief was hit by three poisoned darts – and again made all of her saves as well. Arvid the Ranger strode confidently into the room to find out that the tapestry was Glyphed, and made his save luckily only taking 5 points of damage – while Mika discovered that his dagger, in addition to being a Wounding weapon , evidently also Detects Secret Doors and Traps, so the Secret Door was discovered!

And that is where we left it. A couple of party members are a bit wounded, but not very badly, they’ve pretty much cleaned out this area and have a Secret Door to investigate as well as the rest of the cave entrances. A little bit of magic and a fair amount of cash has been discovered, but the party has also decided after the backstabbing “hostage” (or at least Smjorr has decided) that everything in this place is hostile and deserves to be slain. I’ve already had to start to compensate for the previous action as I figure out what the responses of the inhabitants of the Caves are – and the party is likely in for quite a surprise at some point here soon.

Probably next game session as the evil cult’s response swings into motion…



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