Posts Tagged With: Barrow Downs Campaign

Whew! Nothing like a combination transcription and brain dump!

So that gets “the history of the world” out of the way… Certainly not a complete history, certainly not even an in-depth history, but it’s a good solid, basic history that players can use to “figure some stuff out” and put things into perspective if they want or need to. It is also worth noting that my various campaigns span a large amount of “known human history”.

My very first campaigns, ultimately using a map that I still have and use in a (now) very old copy of my Judges Guild Fantasy Cartographers Field Book date back to early 80’s. I’d have a variety of “planet-hopping” at times using Greyhawk and the Forgotten Realms when it was released – along the Free City of Haven and the Wilderlands of High Fantasy – but my world developed early. These tend to get lumped under the title of the “Istarian Campaigns” and they all pretty much occurred during that time frame. Characters ranged in levels, but a number made it to name level, and one survives to this day as a Godling.

Right around when I graduated high school (that’s 1987 for those who care) I made the first of my “reboots” to the campaign world. I jumped forward in time to the era of Wars of Binding. I wanted a new start, and had the idea for a grand campaign set against an ancient evil trying to take over the world, thus the “Witch-King Campaign“. It chronicled the rise of Albion (Tobin I was an NPC) and the players were at first his adventuring companions, later boon companions, and the campaign began to focus on the missions that they went on to help him and the war against the Witch King. Characters ended up name level, and the players played them, their henchmen, and eventually their henchman’s henchmen.

That campaign ran for about four solid years, until I made another “reboot” – the core group of players were mainly the same, but the characters were now often three or four steps removed from enemies and events that they were being forced to react to. So I jumped it forward in time to what I now call the “Northanger Campaign” – this was an exercise in creating my own version of the Village of Hommlet, a small town at a crucial crossroads, and the initial characters were all from it. It was actually a fair amount of fun since I mapped out the town, a ruined castle, and detailed out the surrounding terrain. This is also when I dropped AD&D as a system and started running complete house rules and the occasional alternate rules system (the Palladium RPG and Thieves Guild were both popular as I recall). This campaign ran pretty solid for a couple of years, but eventually self-destructed (along with my first marriage). While not a perfect analogy, characters ended up in range of mid-to-name level.

After this I decided to try something new again, and ended up with what I called the “Padawan Campaign” because it followed a group of 0-levels who were students at the University of Art in Dinas Fforran (and elsewhere). It was rather experimental because we followed the first nine years of studies as “a year per session” and then started regular play when they became journeymen. This campaign culminated with the events of the Tearing of the Veil (which was a marathon holiday gaming event), but which I also used to bring in a whole host of old characters and NPC’s whose fates had never been specifically resolved. Again, not a perfect analogy, but the characters were in the solid mid-level range.

After the events of the Tearing of the Veil the players were bona fide heroes of the realm with lands and titles. The “Greywake Campaign” was a combination of PBEM and TT gaming that dealt with domain management (adapted from the excellent Pendragon supplement Lordly Domains) as well as the return of the High Lord and the Mad Gods War. This was a pretty enjoyable campaign, and the mixture of PBEM and TT really created a rich experience. The characters were a mix of characters from the Padawan Campaign and the Northanger Campaign, mid-to-name level.

The “T’zarr Campaign” was set up in the T’zarr Border States as a PBEM and then continued as a TT. It was a smaller group than I was used to, merely three players (down from the seven to ten during the “Witch King” days) and I continued what was now a run of semi-experimental set-ups. The players where all members in the household of a powerful mage, working directly for him – eventually expanding out to another mages household and taking the players into a fight against a powerful vampire that threatened to infect the entire city. The characters started out lower level and progressed to mid-level in power.

With the return of some players, the next campaign moved to a new part of the world, the Petty Kingdoms, in the “Dunstane Campaign“. A somewhat rollicking campaign, the characters rambled across the Kingdom of Dunstane, getting themselves into all sorts of trouble, witnessing the rise of the Shadarin and the coming of the Blight. The last stages of this campaign were quite creepy, as the party travelled deep into the Blight, trying to discover exactly what had occurred and discovering only a countryside wide crime-scene. It was the closest I’d ever run to a “zombie apocalypse” game (even though there were no zombies, just the lurking presence of the Ravengers). The characters started out “low-level” and ended up solidly “mid-level” in power.

After a very long absence, I finally returned to AD&D in what I called the “Barrow Downs Campaign” set in lands on the border of the Grand Duchy of Soahc. A brand-new set of characters, started as 1st level, the players ran rampant with the old 1E rules (even with house rules) and had a great time. While there was a fair amount of custom content, the campaign eventually settled upon Keep on the Borderland and the Caves of Chaos as the focus. I’d decided to ignore the events of the Blight, and the setting was far enough away that I could, but events in this campaign ended up being concurrent to the coming of the Blight – and perhaps provided the opening or the key that the Lords of Dearth needed to create it. Characters ended up mostly in the solid-to-high mid-level ranges

I was really stuck by the ends of the last two campaigns, and the players had a number of characters in limbo. So I decided to scoop them all up (and anyone else the players wanted) and I dropped them in the Castle Amber. After all of the very serious and somewhat dark content and tone of the last two campaigns the gonzo nature of the module was a great change, and the players romped their way through the “Amber Campaign“. After successfully completing the module (and only semi-breaking it in the process) I dumped the party into Aquitaine (though a slightly different version that I eventually dropped) and from there they ended up being recruited to investigate a certain slaver problem. By the end of this campaign, characters had progressed for the most part to solidly to high mid-level and some name-level.

Finishing S1 in the Amber Campaign, the gaming group faded out due to various commitments. After a hiatus, I started up a small game for the family based on members of the extended Mystryvven clan. The “Mystryvven Campaign” started with 1st level characters who progressed quickly but solidly into the low mid-range of levels. The plan was always to later integrate the characters from this campaign and the Amber Campaign, but this was delayed by work for everyone and now the release of 5E.

When 5E came out we switched, and started with new characters to running the Lost Mine of Phandelver. That was quite enjoyable and from there I switched to some old 3.5E products that I’d always wanted to run – so the “Siyahchal Campaign” was started by combining the Barrow of the Forgotten King triptych as the prelude to the far more ominous Age of Worms Adventure Path. Slowly, a selection of characters from the Mystryvven Campaign and even Barrow Downs and Amber Campaigns have been brought in and converted – with the character currently sitting at the 8th-10th level range for the most part.

So that’s it,  over thirty years of various D&D campaigns summed up. Countless hours, hundreds of characters, and probably upward of a hundred players over the years. All of this was interspliced with other games, with their own campaigns – my Traveller/Cyberpunk 2020 mash-up was had a number of cycles, and we played the heck out of the World of Darkness in a series of campaigns as well. None of this counts the games I played in myself either, a couple of which were run by my spouse as well as a great campaign I played in for years run by a good friend of mine.

TTFN!

D.

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Musing about the last AD&D campaign

As I’ve been thinking about the AD&D game I was running I’ve been looking at some of the things I’m not so thrilled with. Training for levels is one thing and weapon proficiencies is another. Experience points are the last place where I am just not thrilled with the basic AD&D system.

Weapon proficiencies were ok, but I wasn’t really happy with the way that they worked. While I like the idea of the different classes being restricted in what weapons they can use (it’s somewhat artificial but I’m ok with it for game balance) I’m less convinced that there is any good reason for limiting the learning of new weapons to level advancement. It seems to me that I merely want there to be a cost in time and money (mostly time) in order to learn new weapons.

Similarly, I’m less than thrilled with the time and costs associated with level advancement. This seems to be a remnant of the particular play style that is very “Grognardian” and reflective of the artifacts of the AD&D experience system. Back in the day I had dropped any level training for fighters and rogues (save for when they wanted to learn a weapon proficiency) and retained some costs for spell casters only when they gained a new spell level (to cover initiation and ritual costs). I’m really thinking that I’m going to do the same thing again. This makes the warrior and the rogue classes a bit more popular (not a bad thing) and in turn makes the magic-using and multi-classes a bit less popular because they are actually expensive to play.

In the old days I’d left the old style AD&D system behind and moved to what was basically the Palladium XP system which was far more based on ideas and planning rather the killing and treasure for the generation of XP. The problem is that this made figuring out XP a large investment of time after I was done gaming for the session. So this time around I went with a mix of that style, plus the old AD&D style, and it was still a ton of work. I really like Alexis’ method of 10XP per point of damage done, 20XP per point of damage suffered, with a bonus for the party on total damage suffered. There would still need to be a bit of something figured out for spell-casters and rogues because I like to reward people for using their special skills, but looking at his number crunching and doing some of my own I think it is a pretty reasonable method.

In any case, I just wanted to get this down for posterity. TTFN!

D.

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Session #21 – “You killed Hymie!”

So this session, for the first time, the party doesn’t wake up in the foyer – they wake up in what seems to be the center of some sort of indoor conservatory or utterly massive greenhouse. There is a large fountain with gargoyle statues and pool nearby, and paths leading to the south and to the north – and the party can see the lid of chest that is buried in the ground at the base of the fountain.

With something like fifteen feet of water (to all inspection and detection) separating them from it.

The party is also, yet again, containing a new (but old) character. This time it is someone who both Kyril and Katalyn know, a lusty and busty sh’dai female who is known called Karin – who seems to be both a duelist of some sort and a Tantric. Concerned about the welfare of her henchmen, Kyril assures her that they are “probably fine” and the party quickly fills her in on what has been going on – equally disappointed that she has no better clue what is going on than they. Sadly, Karin seems to have taken the place of Frater Nikolai, so that leaves Sorer Isabella as the ranking Society of Light cleric, with Frater Gregor and Brother Illya undoubtedly concerned with what was happen without the primary healer and leader of the party present.

In any case, Ketzl decides to strip down and wade out across the water (up to his armpits!) to check out the chest…

…and is promptly attacked by the giant amoeba that inhabits the entire bottom of the tank.

Now, luckily, they had tied a rope around his chest and Tier yanked him out almost immediately, as other folks are reaching in trying to grab him (and getting attacked in turn), but there was a scene of mass confusion and a riot of action as spells were cast (including an incredibly useful Faerie Fire by Karin) and short work was made of the monster (give Taloth shots at point-blank range and he is positively nasty…).

Fast-forward a few minutes and now Ketzl, Gregor, and Tier are all wading towards the fountain, everybody is waiting for the gargoyles to animate or start spitting acid or something absolutely vile and they are startled to realize that someone is walking down the path from the north. The woman, who is dressed in rather fine but plain clothing, stops as she sees the group, gazes at them with a mixture of horror and anger, cries, “You killed Hymie!” and then shouts “Attack!” which results in the entire forest flinging pine comes, twigs, branches, etc at the party.

(“Hymie” was the generic name for all sorts of generic bad guys in SD’s campaign, actually the name for all sorts of generic folks period – it was long before Kenny…)

This attack was the result of me trying to make sense of an absolutely worthless spell list on a wandering NPC member of the Amber family. Perhaps the most useless one of the entire family actually – which also had me realizing that evidently the spell progression charts were significantly different in Expert D&D because none of these people have enough spells for their level. But in any case I had to decided what you could do when you essentially had the ability to Charm Plants an infinite number of times on the entire forest and this made the most sense – it essentially became a 1d4+11 (the NPC’s level) AOE attack, save for half (and the people in the water saved for half or none since they could duck under the water).

The problem was that it also nailed the familiars…

Unfortunately I can’t remember the exact series of events (and my spouse is gone for the weekend, she keeps an amazing game log) but though some quick action on the various healers part, and really pissed of Kyril (who subsequently Arcane Blasted the lady), and some unfortunately ineffective action on the part of Brother Illya and Taloth the lady had been taken down, familiars were saved, and the forest stopped going berserk… The party also made it to the buried chest and was almost disappointed to discover it wasn’t trapped or anything bizarre and found a great deal of silver and another of the strange silver keys.

It has also prompted me to come up with an interesting solution for how to explain all of the wandering mages who seem to have no spellbooks (as well as no bedrooms) and provide a funky mechanic for the mages to possibly get what they all want – more spells!

After gathering themselves up, and peering down both paths (actually the Valdamir the Bard investigated a bit down both, to shouts that if got himself killed wandering off it was his own damn fault), they decided to head north and see where the lady came from. Ignoring the squirrels that were evidently storing transformed-into-gold acorns in an old tree, they came to a large set of doors that actually looked like they led to a Church of the Lords of Light chapel, complete with Argentos, etc. This was obviously something that the Society of Light folks couldn’t pass up, and really, I think most everyone wanted to get out of the forest at that point.

So in they go, to find a large chapel of the Church of the Lords of Light, though with some subtly disturbing mosaics and frescos (a bit too erotic – it was decided that they must be more Kistathian influenced), lined with not-very-saintly statues of what seems to be members of the Amber family. As the party spread out to investigate, two of the statues animated – one touching Kyril and the other pressing an ornate golden ring into Mika’s hand.

And then the Amber Light rose about everyone again!

TTFN!

D.

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Session #20 – Blinded by the light!

So in this session nothing much happened, nobody died, though there was a fair amount of fear at times. Basically, the group woke up out of the “Amber Light” and found out that things were different again – though they were starting in the foyer again, the same place that they had woken up before. Taloth, Tier, Vesna, and Gryphon were gone while Frater Nikolai, Brother Illya, and old party member Astrin were there, plus a new person unknown to everyone by the name of Katalyn. After a short bit of discussion (including testing Katalyn with holy water, silver, and cold iron to make sure she wasn’t a demon or something else vile) the group decided to move forward and investigate the mansion further.

With some leveling up and the new people involved, they also put together a bit more information about the castle. They managed to recal that there was some sort of curse that somebody was trying to get lifted somehow. They really didn’t have any more information, but at least had another thing to investigate.

Peeking inside the room where the boxing match took place, they saw it deserted save for a number of goblins in amber livery tidying up the place who all froze in place and loudly declared that there was “Nothing to see here, not a problem, just move along… We’re just cleaning up!” The party shrugged, and left them alone, moving down the hallway to the huge room with mirrors in the walls – which they decided was either a ballroom or some sort of audience chamber.

As a quick aside, that was always the problem with AD&D modules, they also never made any sort of sense when it came to either scale or any actual sort of reasonable layout when it comes to living space. X2 is no exception to this rule.

In any case, this is room the party gets blinded and then has to figure out what to do next. Things were going relatively well, until I rolled a random encounter of Shadows (1-8), and rolled a one. The single shadow I rolled targeted poor Isabella who immediately  decided to try and turn the formless thing that seemed to be attacking her and causing her to feel weaker and weaker…

Turing that shadow was easy, and then with all of the commotion that occurred with that combat I rolled a second encounter – which was shadows again, and this time I rolled shadows again! This time eight! So I ruled that it was the balance of the “one to eight” that might potentially show up. So seven showed up and started targeting the the little core of folks there – Sorer Isabella, Frater Nikolai, and Frater Gregor. The majority of the group had managed to almost make it to the doors at the end of the hall while Astrin and Kyril were off to one side.

One sidelight was Frater Kyril trying to use Dispel Magic on the blindness to no effect – save dropping the spells on characters and ruining all of the potions and dusts that the party was carrying. Not that any character knows this yet…

There was a round or two of increased confusion and fear as the shadows started attacking, Frater Gregor once again disrupted a spell being cast by Sorer Isabella – he has a history of doing this to her – by grabbing her arm and trying to (literally) blindly rush her off into some direction away from the things attacking them. I thought CB the player was going to kill MS the player with that one!

It also raised the question of if you need to see something in order to cast a spell on it when Frater Nikolai wanted to know if he could at least try to castHold Person on these things (whatever they were). On the fly, after glancing at a couple of rulebooks, I said that no, you didn’t but that you did need to make a save vs. Spell in order to do so (so that spellcasters would get better at it as they go up in level). More research reveals that there seems to be nothing in the rules that says you need to see the target as a general rule (as opposed to some specific spell description). My general thought is that either you can target an area if the spell would allow such a thing, or that you have to somehow perceive the target – normally via sight, but sound or touch or taste even would be reasonable as well, though possibly with increased chance of some sort of mistake.

Kyril had had enough and dropped a Fireball at his feet. He wasn’t sure what was going on but something was attacking all of the clerics, he could see anything, and he was damn sure not going to get attacked himself if he could help it. Everybody made their save (or Magic Resistance) save Frater Gregor (of course, his dice hate him) and he managed to lose his armour and a handful of other items. It did, however, seem to take care of the shadows. And then, in the short aftermath,  something else appeared and started roaring (literally) about how people were destroying his property (sending Mika and Frater Gregor into a panic, with Gregor running into a wall and knocking himself out) and Kyril kicked off a couple of Arcane Blasts at him or it and the noise stopped.

And the amber light rose up again…

D.

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Session #19 – The soft amber light rose about them…

There are number of lessons to be learned from last Sunday’s adventure:

  1. Don’t mess with drunken dwarves, they are belligerent and will take you out…
  2. Be careful what you eat.
  3. Cats think they are better than you, even when tied up.
  4. Modules are crazy-stupid at times, but fun.

So, as the party made their way back to civilization in the aftermath of the Slaughter of Seraph Keep,  they went to sleep and woke up – to find themselves in a world gone mad…

Yeah, I’m running them through Castle Amber (X2). Since my spouse was out of town on business this meant that Frater Nikolai and Brother Illya were gone – while my son had decided to bring Taloth back in to play. I also took the opportunity to bring both Gryphon and Kyril back – so the mix of the party was not what they thought it would be and they had no clue where the “missing people” had gone (which will be funny, because my son spends the next session with his mother which means Frater Nikolai and Brother Illya will be back but Tier and Taloth will be gone!)

They made it though the boxing match, the Tabaxi (*cough* rakasta), and into the banquet room before we had to call it. The party was already freaked out because of the magical transport, the grey mist, and the changed people – but the series of events that unfolded was hilarious and I think everyone had a great deal of fun.

Tier stood up for the boxing match (while Gryphon, Vesna, and Mika made some side bets) and the fight was over not-so-amazingly quickly, he far, far, far outclassed the demos magen boxer. But the Amber in question settled his debts, and then started fussing with his broken magen (which worked more like a Victorian-era Rock-Em, Sock-Em Robot). The party then moved into the next room to find the cat-people and slew eight of the twelve and captured the rest – but not until after they had damn near killed the Valdamir Gwion (the Bard) and the Frater Gregor (the not-Paladin) – Frater Gregor had gone charging into combat and ended up nailed by Ketzl’s second Color Spray – and then had his throat ripped out by one of the Tabaxi.

Which then resulted in a hilarious one sided game of charades after Vesna cast Comprehend Languages on one of them and attempted to communicate with them. The Tabaxi (who had all been knocked unconscious by a Color Spray), were none to impressed by this (the usual feline disdain) but in a rather surprise development “swore fealty” to Vesna in exchange for their freedom and a promise not to attack the rest of the party (they were then taken back to horses, where they got eat the dead one that had wandered into the mist). This whole process was the majority of the middle part of the session.

Then they went to the next room, which was the banquet room and everybody but Sorer Isabella and Frater Gregor sat down to eat…

Modules can be amazingly unbalanced and crazy.

Things went “fine” (that is, a mixture of positive, negative, and neutral effects spread scross the feasters) until the mushroom’s and people started dropping (and everyone was drunk from the red wine), at which point Frater Gregor tried to rush in and drag people away from the table while loudly insisting that everyone leave, etc. Gryphon, the very drunk dwarf, then punched him in the face for interrupting while trying to feed the Apple Strudel to Ketzl (or Mika, I can’t remember which now)…

Frater Gregor only had 2HP (the major healer of the party is gone…) and he dropped like a sack of potatoes. Then the brandy was served, and Mika and Vesna both blew their saves…

Now, the “amber light” descended because it was exactly the point at which I was going to have to call it anyways – and I get to decide if that was enough to save the two of them from joining the ghostly feast. I pretty much have decided that it was, though there is no promise that they will ever get the timing that right ever again. But it is a great way to warn them that the rules here in “Castle Amber” are very, very different then the way the rest of the world works…

But I am so looking forward to the rest of this module…

TTFN!

D.

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The role of the nemesis…

My son, MR, has mentioned a couple of times now that the confrontation between Tier and Roland in the last game session was “a defining moment” for Tier – and I have to agree. It is interesting because the Tier started life as a mercenary spellsword and Roland was a 0-Level moving towards Paladinhood, and they are pretty much in the opposite camps at this point.

Tier has become a member of the Sabean Order, essentially NG order of champions in service to the more pragmatic branch of the Celestial Host, and he’s light-years away from the person he started as. Add in all of the rest of the mystical changes wrought upon him and he’s a one-elf power house and force for good. MR is really having fun playing that up as well.

Roland on the other hand was a dead character, but given the way he died (accidentally transported to the Realm of the Dead by Tier) he was pretty much a shoe-in for a “bad guy” at some point. I didn’t quite hope that he’d show up again so soon, but the opportunity last game was pretty much too good to pass up. Now, the question somewhat remains – is a wight? A vampire? Some version of a Death Knight? Something else entirely? He was physically transported to the Realm of the Dead – something which is certainly not good and he was 0-Level to boot! So whatever happened to him was pretty much instantaneous. And what is up with the three remaining spirits that escaped with him?

But Tier now has a nemesis, or rather, Tier has something that he is inclined to be the nemesis for himself. He realizes that he screwed up, and feels responsible for what happened to Roland. MR is already talking about hunting down Roland (which won’t be easy) – and the group isn’t sure if he had anything to do with the slaughter that occurred at Seraph Keep or not. But as Frater Nikolai pieces together what happened while he was passed out, he is growing increasingly uneasy with what seems to have happened – his charge, Roland, has reappeared in the company of unquiet spirits via some sort of magical gate in a demonic temple.

That is so not good…

D.

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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!

D.

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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.

D.

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Not just another longbow… (1e)

So, this is an homage to two things, the 1980’s made-for-TV move “Escape from the Empire” and Roderick, from SD’s game played by TF.

Kel, the Heartbow.

There are a handful of Heartbows, of differing types and styles, Kel is a longbow of indestructible, dark reddish wood with a large red gem or crystal embedded just above the grip. It is a sentient, empathetic, and of Neutral Good alignment. Kel is distinctly male and has an Ego of 20. It’s powers are quite simple, it is a +10 Longbow, nothing more or less complex than that (no Strength bonus but Dexterity and Class/Specialization bonuses as normal). It can also be used as a club (1d6+10) in melee combat (this does get any Strength bonus), at the standard number of melee attacks per round.

But the power that comes from the Heartbow is not without it’s restrictions:

  • No other weapons others than a Knives/Daggers may be used.
  • The Heartbow will only use magical or silver-tipped arrows.
  • It may only be wielded by a good character that is a Fighter or Fighter-subclass (or multiclass).

When a character has the opportunity to take up a Heartbow, usually upon the death of the previous wielder, they will be judged as either worthy or unworthy by the Heartbow. This is represented by a System Shock roll, -50% if  a Fighter, -40% if a Ranger, -30% if an Archer, -20% if an Archer-Ranger, -50% if not proficient in a bow, and finally +Level as a %. This test looks like an arcing bolt of electricity and light, that sears the sigil of the Heartbow into the chest of the new bearer (and incidently killing the old bearer if they are still living) – and doing 2-20 HP of damage and 1 Point of Constitution damage if the test is failed. Anyone who is not the wielder who touches the Heartbow takes 20HP of damage per round if Evil, 10HP per round if Neutral, and 5HP per round of damage if Good.

Other known Heartbows are Elb (female Longbow), Uln (male Greatbow), and Lur (female Greatbow).

D.

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Banking and Taxes

How to handle money and banking recently came up in my game, quite the coincidence that I just came across a thread on the topic over at Yog-Sothoth and that lead this this great link.

What caused the last gaming session to blow up was the unexpected appearance of the taxman – who not only was ready to assess taxes on money, was going to collect the “tax” (more like a one-time license fee) for magic items. The whole situation freaked the heck out of people and I really handled the surprise badly – with certainly the critique that it shouldn’t have been as much of a surprise at all (true enough).

It’s had me re-reading the section in the DMG (page 90) on taxes and taxation, and reviewing how games like Pendragon handle taxes, etc. which in turn has me re-evaluating or re-thinking how I’ve handled stuff in the “reboot” of my AD&D campaign. Now it’s not much of an issue since the players have been playing around out in the boondocks for the most part. So things like tariffs, dues, duties, and tolls haven’t really played much of a part.

And one of the complaints of players is when things are needlessly confusing, or there isn’t any consistant application of principles.

So, need to get more consistant and I screwed myself by glossing over stuff at the beginning.

Hah! Kind of like DMing again for the first time!

D.

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