Friday, January 23, 2015

It's been a long busy week

... I expect things to get back to normal next week. Hopefully. Cool stuff happening regardless - I'll share that later too.

Friday, January 16, 2015

40K Friday - Irons in the Fire: Building Armies and Goals for 2015

I look at the miniature army-building process as really having 5 stages:
  • Designing it - figuring out what are the units you need to make a playable force (of say 1000-2000 points for 40K) and how you want the army to work.
  • Collecting it - acquiring the models you need to field it
  • Assembling it - putting the troopers together, building the tanks, and getting it into physically usable shape. This may overlap with the collecting part.
  • Painting it - putting the colors on to make them look like a unified force, other than the Primer Legion. This may overlap with the assembling part.
  • Playing it - that first game with the new army is always a big moment. Even if it's a 500 point skirmish with a leader and a couple of squads it's still a cool thing. I always feel like that's the moment I can say "yeah I play (army x)".
My first marine and eldar forces were built back in Rogue Trader and expanded throughout 2nd Edition. I also added ork and chaos armies during 2nd. For 3rd I reshuffled things. I traded off  my eldar for more orks, traded the chaos for more marines, tried imperial guard and traded them off for more orks and more marines, and built a second marine army optimized for 3rd edition. That was pretty much it for ten years. I stuck with my old marine army, my new marine army, and my ork army and was mainly an orks and marines player through 4th and 5th, though at the end of 5th I did pick up a painted deathwing army. I had picked up a few eldar parts and some chaos parts along the way but not enough to make them real armies - just good deals as I came across them with the idea I
would get around to them one of these days. Then the boys got old enough, got interested in the Dawn of War computer games, and 6th edition came out.

Looking back, I have been working on four different armies over the past two years with varying approaches and to varying degrees of success. I thought I'd recap them today.

I started out this new wave of 40K interest with a desire to build a brand new army from scratch instead of rehashing the same parts I've been using for the last 20-odd years. Having purchased the 6th edition starter set I decided to go ahead and build a Dark Angels army. You can never have too many marine armies, right? The trick for me is to gear them for different styles of play - foot, mounted, drop pod assaults, etc. I spent most of 2013 and the early months of 2014 acquiring the parts and changing my mind about how I wanted the army to work. I finally settled on it around the end of 2013 (see here and here) and acquired the rest of the parts in early 2014. I'd call it "Designed" and "Collected" at this point, but I'm still working on the "Assembling" and the "Painting" phases. It's been back-burner-ed the last few months while I worked on Chaos and Eldar but I do intend to come back to it soon.

Not super-impressive in boxes and bags but it should be fun to play
This was the first army where I followed this new approach and it's worked pretty well. It's nice to have the whole army in-house prior to starting up the painting process and it's also nice to be able to say "it's done" - well, as much as any 40K army can ever truly be "done".  It does mean I have all the elements of the army I want to play and I can start picking up pieces of the next army while I am painting and playing this one. Now I just need to finish them ...

Behind all the spaceships the painted stuff is looking pretty good
Around the same time I figured I ought to build up a chaos marine army too since the starter set came with a pretty good set of mini's too. This turned into a more extended process than I had planned but I eventually settled on a force structure and a look for them and I've been slowly making progress ever since. Since Daemons work so well as allies with CSM's I converted my fantasy daemon army over to 40K bases and it works pretty well. I have done some work on these recently so maybe I can finish them this year. They're Designed, Collected, and Assembled, I just need to finish the Painting part of the process.

Chaos stuff in progress

At the end of 2013 I also started thinking about an Eldar army, specifically an Iyanden-style wraith army. Thinking I could get the parts together while I was painting up the Chaos and Dark Angel forces. That's not exactly how it went. By the end of 2014 I had settled on a Design (since expanded, naturally) and I have Collected almost all of it, but it's not Assembled or Paintable or Playable yet. Writing up this post I'm thinking maybe I should go back and finish one of these others up before pushing ahead on the space elves but you have to go with the fire you feel at the moment or it turns into work. We'll see. I'm up to around 3000 points of Eldar "Collected" and I have yet to pick up any wave serpents so it's going to get pretty ridiculous this year. With DA's and Chaos pretty much built out, this one and the BA's will be 2015's armies of acquisition.

More boxes and bags but progress is being made
Finally, a latecomer to the scene has been the Blood Angels. It started with a  moment of "hey, I have a lot of unused marines here" and turned into a minor acquisition streak of picking up a unit here or there on the cheap. After reading through the codex the wheels start to turn and the realization that it wouldn't take much to make this a real army sets in. So in 2014 I added some assault squads and some death company troops and Dante. Now with the new codex there are a lot of interesting options with this army and I'd say they are in second place for 2015 for the Collecting phase of things. I really just need vehicles, so it won't be cheap but I don't need all that many. I have an initial force in mind which I will discuss in a later post and that will guide my acquisitions for now. Once I play them a few times I'm sure I'l have some modifications in mind but they are not quite there yet.

Blood Angels forming up - some of these are even painted.
So that's the big four at the moment. One of these days I'll go back into active mode with the Orks and bring them into 7th edition but I really need to finish one or two of these others first.

Eldar recent arrivals
For 2014 my goal was to have the Dark Angels completely finished by the end of the year. I failed there. I did add to the Eldar, and I did get the Daemons playable so I did accomplish some things. For 2015 my goals are:

  1. Completely finish the Dark Angels! I mean it this time!
  2. Completely finish the Chaos Marines! Also finish the Daemon allies! This is all very close right now so it should be achievable.
  3. Finish collecting and building the Eldar and play some games with them. Get some of them painted.
  4. Collect and build the Blood Angels force that's in my head and get in a few games with them.
  5. Finish a small expansion to my old Crimson Fist army
  6. Play at least one game of 7th with my old RT Howling Griffons army
  7. Finish some detailing on the Deathwing army, even if I don't play it
  8. Build Lady Blacksteel's Dark Eldar figures so she can paint them, even if we don't use them in a single game
  9. Design the Ork army restructure by the end of the year. Think of them as the army to build for 2016
  10. Play at least one game of 40K a month - with whichever army. No dead zones this year.
That's not a short list, but I'm happy with it. If I accomplish everything that's a helluva productive year. Next January I'll look back and see how I did.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Wrath of the Righteous - Session 6a: Into the Ruins

Our Heroes (Level 2):
  • Relyn Steelguard, Paladin of Iomedae
  • Graidin Cratchet, Wizard
  • Arken Surien, Cavalier of the Order of the Lion, in service to Queen Galfrey of Mendev
  • Jaren, Dragon Sorcerer 
  • Phalcon, Cleric of Erastil
  • (+Delanour, Ranger)
  • (+Arken's Horse, animal companion)
Moving into what's left of Kenabres the group discusses priorities:
  • Anevia (ranger, still limping) says "I must find my wife! I hope she's safe!"
  • Aravashnial (wizard, still blinded) says "Take me to the library, we will find aid there!"
  • Horgus (merchant, still annoying) says "Take me to my manor house - I will pay you well"
The heroes, having only recently arrived in the city, have no particular attachment to any person or place though there is discussion about heading for a temple or one of the guard stations. They reach no consensus but decide to seek better shelter in the city and scout things out. 

Other eyes are watching - as the group moves along an open stretch of road, a flock of fiendish vultures descends and attacks! In the fight Arken's warhorse trots up, seemingly in fine shape - what a stroke of luck! The vultures are dispatched, and the group decides to look for citizens to find out what has happened in the past few days since they fell into the undercity. 

Pressing on, they soon see a small tailor's shop that looks largely intact though there is the sound of smashing coming from inside the wide-open front door. Investigating, the team sees a man-sized ratlike demon tearing the place up. Relyn and Arken are having none of that so they charge in and take out some anger on the creature, avoiding it's nasty claws and slaying it with no mercy.

From a back room come the shopkeepers, a married couple named Belthis and Neera. They are extremely grateful for the party's rescue and offer to share food and news if the group will spend the night. This seems like a great idea to our heroes and they pass their first night on the surface catching up on recent events.  

During the night they learn much - the Kenabres wardstone has been destroyed, the Kite, the fortress that held it, has also been destroyed, cultists came out of the woodwork, some of the crusaders have gone mad, there are demonic bugs all over the city, many people have been possessed, and the water may have been poisoned. The one hopeful bit of rumor is that Queen Galfrey is on the way at the head of an army but no one knows when they will arrive.

The next morning the heroes decide to head for the Blackwing Librarium. Aravashnial describes it as a center of arcane learning for demon hunters and the others back him up. It's probably the closest of the several potential destinations so they might as well head there first. 

Belthis and Neera have also come the realization that they cannot stay in the shop any longer so they gather up their things and prepare to leave with the party. 

Leading this rag-tag fugitive band of refugees, the group comes across a group of Baphomet cultists - a familiar sight from below -  about to sacrifice a man in broad daylight. Without hesitation the heroes attack. Graiden uses sleep magic on three of them, Relyn engages another, and Arken finally gets to unleash a mounted charge on another, killing him in a single sweep. The victim turns out to be a ranger from Mendev, scouting through the ruins to try and determine who is left. Reclaiming his gear from nearby, he joins the group figuring that Blackwing is as likely a place as any to have survived.

Pressing on, the party makes its way to what was once the famous Blackwing Librarium. It now lies in ruins. From the open front door a voice bellows loudly "... stack the damn books higher!" It does not look good ...

DM Notes: With a small group of players, any absence is felt keenly. Dave and Red both had upcoming (and past) schedule conflicts so Blaster made a second character, a ranger. This also seemed like a good opportunity to work in the cavalier's horse, so both showed up this session.

This was the beginning of an especially fun part of the campaign as the ruined city is pretty much a sandbox - the party can go wherever they wish. The NPC's each have an agenda but the players don't have to accommodate it. It's a refreshing change after the relatively limited set of choices in escaping from below. A city just destroyed by demons is a pretty interesting type of post-apocalyptic setting and I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did.

A word on structure: normally I try to write one recap per session but a lot went on in sessions 5-6-7 so I'm splitting some of them up into multiple entries. More to come!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Wrath of the Righteous - Session 5: Out of the Darkness

Our Heroes (Level 2):
  • Relyn Steelguard, Paladin of Iomedae
  • Graidin Cratchet, Wizard
  • Arken Surien, Cavalier of the Order of the Lion, in service to Queen Galfrey of Mendev
  • Jaren, Dragon Sorcerer 
  • Phalcon, Cleric of Erastil

Checking one last door in the upper level the party finds a sort of open well leading to an underground river. Figuring there might be something interesting, they decide to climb down. Poking around down there they discover a secret door that leads to a hidden room off the river. Webs? No problem! Dust? No problem! Old wooden chest against one wall? No problem! Hidden spiked pit trap? Problem! Well, not so much as the clumsy cavalier only takes a few scratches, then it's time to escape with the loot. We'll call that time "fun with climb checks" as armor and the loot combined to make for some entertaining moments in what seemed like a pretty easy task initially. 

The pair of cultists that almost laid the cavalier low back in Session #3 were actually guarding a door in the ceiling. Last time The cleric and the NPC's (the blind, the gimpy, and the greedy) had stayed back to watch it while the rest of the party explored the rest of the rooms on their level. Now, it was time to climb the iron ladder on the wall and see what was up there.

First up was a rats' nest inhabited by a trio of giant rats which were dispatched with very little effort.

Next was another guard post in front of a rusted iron door guarded by the two biggest mongrelmen they had yet encountered, looking even more mutated than the others. Alerted by the final squeaks of the rats, they were ready for the heroes. The paladin and cavalier worked well as a team, moving up together and attacking the same target. The sorcerer and the wizard did likewise. The cleric was still finding his feet and when he tried to maneuver around one of the mutants and paid for it when the beast clocked him and dropped him in one solid hit. He survived, but he wasn't happy about the skirmish. Examining the area, the party realizes it's set up more to defend against something coming through the door rather than something coming at the door from this side. Unsure of what lies beyond but undeterred regardless, they open it.

With a shriek of rusted hinges the portal opens and beyond it the heroes see a large worked stone chamber, arches soaring overhead at the edges of the torchlight. This may be part of the foundations of the city - progress! There is also newer, cruder work in the center of the room, limiting access. It might have started out as a defensive wall but is now the outside of a maze, presumably constructed by the mutants as a defense against intruders. They move in, somewhat excited to be visibly closer to the surface but also wary of what those guards were guarding against ...

They quickly encountered the inhabitants of the maze - a pair of smallish apelike demonic beings who charged them with weird hooting noises. They were not physically terrifying but they were unnaturally tough, and the rude noises and nauseating clouds they created were a step beyond the mere visual weirdness of the mongrelmen. One of them cast some kind of foul spell that made Arken run in fear, though Phalcon managed to calm him down and return him to the fight. In the end they slew both creatures with no serious harm to themselves.

With the demonic stinkbeasts slain, the heroes scout ahead and find a series of tunnels leading up. They return to the guard room and bring up the Anevia, Aravashnial, and Horgus. Pressing forward again they make their way upwards and eventually emerge from the city sewers to breathe clean, fresh, air once again as the sun rises over the smoking ruin of the crusader city of Kenabres. They are out, but maybe they were better off below ...

The battle for Kenabres did not go well - in fact it wasn't really even a "battle"

DM Notes: Figuring out the logistics of getting a couple of characters down a rope and into a secret room had a very old-school feel to it, despite the plentiful use of skill checks. The pit trap was pretty old school too, except I rolled a "1" for the falling damage, a "1" for the number of spikes, and followed that with a "1" for the actual spike damage, for absolute minimum possible damage. Sometimes the fun just drains away as the rolls come up.

The rats were not even a challenge as the first 3 characters up the ladder killed one each. For the guards though I used "advanced" mongrelmen and those proved to be a bit tougher, enough to make for a more interesting fight. The barricades used at all the guardposts in this area required a little more thought and maneuvering from the party  than the usual charge-hit-kill you might see in an otherwise empty room.

Dretches in a confined space were fun. They have a lot of resistances so they don't croak on the first hit or two, and they have fun little spells like cause fear and stinking cloud. They tend to be minions or nuisance monsters at higher levels but at 2nd they were a nice little challenge. 

At the end of this session our heroes are now out of the dungeon and back in the city. The "intro" part of the adventure is over and the somewhat sandboxy part begins as they make their way through a ruined city trying to figure out where to go and what to do, both for themselves and with this group of hangers-on they've picked up along the way.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Wrath of the Righteous - Session 4: A Light in the Darkness

Our Heroes (now level 2!):
  • Relyn Steelguard, Paladin of Iomedae
  • Graidin Cratchet, Wizard
  • Arken Surien, Cavalier of the Order of the Lion, in service to Queen Galfrey of Mendev
  • Jaren, Dragon Sorcerer 
  • Phalcon, Cleric of Erastil (who is not present for this session)
We begin in the room of the two cultists. After the fierce battle in the last session, a fair amount of time is spent sorting out who is where, searching these rooms, healing, determining who has a light source (the sorcerer and the cleric both have spells, others have torches), and generally getting back on track. Phalcon, Anevia (NPC ranger), Horgus (NPC merchant), Aravashnial (NPC wizard), agree it's best to wait here while the others investigate the rest of the mongrelman lair for cult activity.

Moving back into the room of the cave lizard fight the heroes try another door and find a bow-wielding mongrelman in the room beyond. They rush him and he is quickly overwhelmed.

In this room is a trap door and with absolutely no stealth they drop down into another well-defended guard post. The two mongrelman guards call for aid and two more rush in, making for a good-sized fight in a small-sized space. The wizard uses Daze to good effect while the sorcerer goes old school and kills 3 with his spear while the cavalier and paladin charge in.

Investigating further, the party moves in and surprises a human woman - clearly some kind of cult leader - and her tiefling bodyguard in her quarters. A fairly tough fight follows where the cult leader - Hosilla - and the paladin and the cavalier take turns scoring vicious hits then missing completely but eventually she falls, and her bodyguard doesn't last much longer. The subsequent search of her room yields magic scrolls, potions, wands, and a very well-made wooden case - inside is a very fine blade: Radiance, a magical sword once wielded by a famous heroine. Relyn takes up the weapon, instantly knows he has something special, and a bond is formed.

They also find a letter from one "S.V." to Hosilla giving her orders - now thwarted - and mentioning three safe houses used by the cults of Deskari and Baphomet in the city. Armed with this information, our heroes are eager to return to the surface and take some kind of action to try and begin re-balancing the scales towards good.

Monday, January 12, 2015

College Football Championship and 40K - Oregon Dark Angels?

Oregon's uniforms last week - green and yellow are their school colors
Oregon's uniforms tonight - They're fielding the Deathwing!
(or maybe that's "Duckwing") 

Weekly Update: Post-Cowboy Monday, TV, D&D, and ICONS

  • The Cowboys lost in Green Bay - regardless of calls etc. this was a much  better season than anyone expected at the beginning of the season so I can't complain too much. My personal antidote to the playoff-loss blues was to immediately jump into our monthly Pathfinder game. It's good to have something else to focus on, like managing our kingdom and chasing down a marauding werewolf. 

  • Agent Carter - I liked it. I'm hoping they do more with it than a short mini series as I think a 40's-50's spy show has a ton of potential. Also, as Apprentice Who pointed out, "60 seconds in and this show has 100% more Avenger than the first episodes of "Agents of Shield".
Nothing wrong with this disguise at all

  • Galavant - The whole family liked it, from the musical theater college kid to Lady Blacksteel to even me. I had low expectations and I was very pleasantly surprised. It's like a clever web series with a real budget. 

  • The D&D Basic Rules for 5th Edition have an online site  now. It's not quite the PFSRD but it's not bad after skimming through it.

  • ICONS seemed quiet to me last year after the release of the new edition but there is some new activity to report. 
Now I haven't tried any of these yet but I've liked just about everything Fainting Goat has released and Dan Houser's adventures for AI have been a lot of fun too. I see no reason to think that has changed for either company.

Friday, January 9, 2015

40K Friday: Eldar Update - Guardians, Fast Attack, Heavy Support

Ah, 2nd Edition's subtle packaging
With the arrival of the Wraithknight and a new Wraithlord I had some serious thinking to do. Once again I found myself questioning whether to continue my old never-fully-completed Eldar paint scheme or go with a traditional Iyanden paint job, splitting my Eldar forces into multiple armies. I've agonized over this before here and here and I need to get to a final decision before any more paint hit the models. I thought about it more, re-examined what I had and what I wanted to do with it and decided to keep the old aqua and pink scheme for the new stuff too. Part of it is to give me options for guardians, warlocks, and jetbikes that I already have, but most of it is to keep my guys clearly "my" guys and the off-the-shelf paint scheme just is not as interesting to me. I may pick up some Iyanden-painted units down the road as a shared ally force for me and Apprentice Blaster, but it's not a high priority.

Besides all the wraith stuff outlined last time I also figured out that I have roughly 20 guardians so with some renewed painting efforts I should have the option to field the guardians as 10 + 10 with support weapons in each, or 20 with support weapons. I don't have to use them - I still like my "Non-Guardians" army idea - but I do at least have the option if I need to make an Eldar gunline for some reason.

Fast Attack is an area I am lacking and one that would help with my currently all-footdar army.

  • I sorted through things and figured out I have 5 jetbikes - how did I miss that? So I picked up a 6th jetbike (that's him up at the top) to give me the 3+3 or 6 in one option to compliment the ghost warriors. 
  • I also have a pair of Vypers and although they are not highly regarded I am thinking about picking up a 3rd to make the full set since they are 3 to a slot. That makes me more jet-ish than Apprentice Blaster's Saim-Hann force. Now to decide how to arm them ... 
  • I want options here so I found some inexpensive Swooping Hawks too. I expect they will see quite a bit of use.
For Heavy Support I now have the wraithknight, some wraithlords, two dark reaper squads, and the Iyanden Falcon (there's a good ship name). Long term a a second wraithknight is probably in the cards but not right now - I want to play this army some first. I'd like to add a Fire Prism too at some point but that's another long-term goal. For now I just need to paint them up. I have the wraithseer kit for one of the wraithlords so I will probably use that one as my warlord under the Iyanden army rules. So for now Heavies will be Wraithknight + Wraithlord and either a second Wraithlord or a squad of Reapers.

Now this is not an optimized force for the current online meta of 40K, but as they say "you go to war with the army you have". I'm going to get these guys built and painted and add a few more things I consider critical. Top of the list is a couple of additional wraithguard squads and a couple of wave serpents for them to ride in. That will liven things up considerably. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Wrath of the Righteous - Session 3: Duels in the Dark

We begin at the entrance to the village of Neathholm, deep beneath the city of Kenabres, on the border of the Worldwound. Our heroes (all 1st level) are:
  • Relyn Steelguard, young Paladin of Iomedae, (longsword and shield)
  • Graidin Cratchet, aspiring Wizard (hand of the apprentice staff-tossing)
  • Arken, newly minted Cavalier of the Order of the Lion, in service to Queen Galfrey of Mendev (longsword and shield)
  • Jaren, Dragon Sorcerer (claws)
  • The Cleric with No Name of Erastil (spell and bow)
(Red was busy so Jaren peels off in the village and doesn't take an active role in this session but we added a new character, a cleric of Erastil, played by one of my longtime players, Dave.)

Lann leads the party past the guards to meet Chief Sull, leader of the mongrelmen village. A nice bit of roleplaying follows where the party actually treats an NPC with some respect - that's a relatively rare event here. The conversation covers a little history, a little current events, speculation on the reason for the cave-ins and the demon attack, and some personal details. The chief is impressed enough to offer the aid of the mongrelmen in the defense or retaking of the city. They are descendants of the first crusaders and they feel that they have a duty to assist. This should be good news if the group can ever get back to the surface.

Then the conversation turns to what lies between the party and their return. The nearest path to the surface is blocked by a tribe of hostile mongrelmen who have turned to evil and who have been consorting with demon cultists. Things go well enough in the discussion that the chief offers the party some healing potions and his trusty enchanted morning star from his fighting days to help the heroes clear a path through the fallen mongrels. While the party clears out the miscreants, his warriors will spread the word to the other tribes so they will be ready when the call comes. At the end of the discussion everyone shakes hands and retires to prepare for the next day.

Rested up, the party moves out, intending to wipe out the pocket of evil that lies ahead and finally -finally! - return to Kenabres. Deciding for once to scout ahead carefully, the wizard drinks an invisibility potion, moves up and casts Sleep on the two-man guard station that he has discovered. One guard drops but the other resists. Graiden is out of ideas and so calls for help and the Paladin charges in, hurdling the barricade and striking out at the remaining guard. The Cavalier is right behind him and manages to finish the mongrelman off.

The rest of the group (including NPC's Anevia the gimpy, Aravshnial the blinded, and Horgus the unpleasant) shuffles forward and while debating how to proceed Relyn the Paladin detects evil through the door, senses it, and kicks it in.

This is some kind of common room and while there is a fire pit and some bedrolls there are only two unfortunate mongrel-traitors in the room and they are clearly overmatched but they open a door and let in a large pinkish cave lizard that makes things interesting. Soon enough all 3 are down (with the help of a summoned Celestial Wolf). There are several doors in the room and the party decides to check the one to the north.

This time the Cavalier charges in but it quickly becomes apparent that the opposition knows what they are doing this time. The inhabitants of the room are a pair of armored humans, a male and a female, wielding glaives and using some actual tactics. The girl maneuvers Arken away from the door while the male steps in and blocks the doorway behind him, holding off the rest of the team. A vicious two-part battle takes shape as Arken attempts to duel his opponent (who is clearly a little better than he is) while the Paladin and Cleric attempt to fight their way in to aid him. Graiden manages to summon a Dire Rat into the room but it does little to change the circumstances of the fight.

Finally, Arken tires and the female bashes him with the butt of her glaive, dropping him to the floor. Before she can do him any further harm though, her companion goes down with a gurgling cry as  the Cleric cuts him down and the Paladin rushes in, shoving her away from Arken's unconscious form. Already battered form her duel with the Cavalier, she is in no shape to fight fresh opponents and is quickly slain.

The rest of the party moves in and checks out the room (some kind of trophy room decorated in dead animals) and get Arken back on his feet - he is more than ready to continue their crusade.

DM Notes:

 I said it before:
The NPC's the party is saddled with at the beginning are a mixed bag. It's good to have living, breathing setting hooks right there in the adventure and it's very disaster-movie-esque having a random group of strangers thrown together after a catastrophe but it's cumbersome for me as a DM to have three extra party members to manage regardless of their impairments. If this was happening later in the campaign it might be less of an issue but having it right at the beginning with higher level NPC's running alongside 1st level characters it's an odd mix of baggage and advantage and just more stuff in general to keep up with. I think one character would have been enough to convey the info with less overhead but we are past that now. For the moment they are sort of "pokeball" NPC's - they stay back out of combat until it's over then come in and impart useful information if they have anything relevant to the current area. 
...and my feelings haven't really changed. It's still not how I would handle it but I'm going with the flow.

There were really two main parts to this session:

First, the interactions at the village, mainly with the chief. This was fun and while it didn't take a whole lot of actual time it felt "right", like the kind of thing a band of good-aligned adventurers on a quest would do. I am amazed at how easily my players fall into the flow of this adventure - that's been a very iffy thing with published adventures I have run in the past but this one seems to be right on their wavelength and it's working really well.

Second was the invasion of the evil mongrelman outpost. They blew through the first 4-5 rooms in the place and once again the contrast in speed of combat with 4E is pretty strong. I like my 4E but there is no question that we are getting more done in a session with this game than with that one. 

They had been having a fairly easy time of it but the last fight with the two cultists was more challenging. I played them with a little more tactical finesse because a) they are classed opponents with two levels, trained fighters as opposed to mutant-man grunts and b) the noise of the previous fight certainly gave them a warning and time to prepare. So they did.

This was not a really long session but it was a lot of fun and got us that much closer to seeing daylight again. Hopefully the next session will get us across that particular goal line and set up the rest of "The Worldwound Incursion".

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Wrath of the Righteous - Session 2: The Dwarf in the Dark

We begin in a long-lost shrine of Torag, deep beneath the city of Kenabres, on the border of the Worldwound. Our heroes (all 1st level) are:
  • Relyn Steelguard, young Paladin of Iomedae, (longsword and shield)
  • Graidin Cratchet, aspiring Wizard (hand of the apprentice staff-tossing)
  • Arken, newly minted Cavalier of the Order of the Lion, in service to Queen Galfrey of Mendev (longsword and shield)
  • Jaren, Dragon Sorcerer (claws)
After cleansing the shrine the party is fully healed and feeling ready to continue their climb to the surface. They spend some time talking to the other party members and learn a little bit more about them. 
  • Aravashnial seems to have come to grips with his blindness and has warmed up to the party as well. he offers to use his magic as best he can given his current state. 
  • Anevia too is more talkative and is now armed with a bow so she can aid in battle even if her leg keeps her from charging in.  
  • Horgus Gwerm is still scowling about the whole situation and is only interested in getting to the surface as quickly as possible. He does not appear to have any skill in combat or with magic and is depending on the party to get him out, which seems to chafe him even more.
After moving ahead for a time they come to a sizable cavern. Within, the heroes notice the walls are carved with depictions of armored figures dating back to the first crusade. Then they are ambushed by a a pair of flying tentacle monsters. Jaren is engulfed and drops after a brief struggle while Relyn and Arken attempt to cut the things apart. Graidin uses some minor magics and also finds his staff quite useful. In short order the beasties are slashed to ribbons and the group takes 5 to revive the beaten spellcaster.

The only way out leads to an adjacent cave, also large, where the glowing remains of a campfire can be seen. from the entrance. What is not seen is the levitating dwarf who opens up with a color spray as the team enters the cavern which floors most of the party. Arken remains conscious and charges in, using his dragon scale (see below) to levitate up and engage the dwarf. Anevia fires a few bow shots from the entrance but has a hard time connecting. In desperation, Aravashnial summons a celestial dire bat and sics it on the dwarf as well. Even though he is levitatedblurred, and mage armored, Millorn the insane dwarf wizard is not going to last long against that kind of firepower (longsword CHOP! celestial dire bat SMITE!) and he soon falls to the ground, extremely dead. After reviving the rest of the party and searching the camp (spellbook!) they press on.

Leaving the dwarf-cave the passage begins climbing - finally! Time and distance pass and the group eventually comes to another cave with what appears to be a collapsed tower in the middle. Near it, two humanoids are pulling a third from the rubble. Somewhat to my surprise the party approaches cautiously and tries to communicate with them! After a quick conversation in broken common the fighters are helping to pull a battered humanoid from the wreckage and making some new friends. 

The beings are tough to look at, being a mix of various creature types. The leader, introducing himself as "Lann" appears to be a mix of elf, goat, and lizard and the other two are equally exotic. As they bandage up Crel (the injured humanoid) the mongrel people share that they have a village nearby. The new ruin was a watchtower located here because one of the passages leads to their village. It collapsed in the earthquake and they are concerned that their village may have suffered also and they wish to return to it as soon as possible. If the party wants to travel with them they would appreciate the help and would happily share food. Our heroes agree to this plan.

Moving out with their new friends the party makes good time. As they approach the village though a new problem arises: the tremors have split the passage ahead with a chasm. The mongrel-people know this is the most direct route home and are desperate to find a way across. Undaunted, our heroes work out a solution involving crossbows, a lot of rope, and the magical levitation scale that works for everyone, even the injured members of the party. Taking their time, everyone is moved safely across and then the group makes their final approach to the village.

(In Session 1 the party found some silver scales, fallen from the silver dragon who was slain during the attack on the city. Each of them has some minor magical effect. One of them is "levitate", which came in handy during this part of the adventure.) 

Lines of the session: 
"Perception? Ok - nat 20! ... So that's a 21 total"

(A few minutes later)

"Diplomacy? OK - nat 20! ... So that's a 19 total"

DM Notes: 

The NPC's the party is saddled with at the beginning are a mixed bag. It's good to have living, breathing setting hooks right there in the adventure and it's very disaster-movie-esque having a random group of strangers thrown together after a catastrophe but it's cumbersome for me as a DM to have three extra party members to manage regardless of their impairments. If this was happening later in the campaign it might be less of an issue but having it right at the beginning with higher level NPC's running alongside 1st level characters it's an odd mix of baggage and advantage and just more stuff in general to keep up with. I think one character would have been enough to convey the info with less overhead but we are past that now. For the moment they are sort of "pokeball" NPC's - they stay back out of combat until it's over then come in and impart useful information if they have anything relevant to the current area. 

The darkmantle fight was fun. I haven't really seen them in 4E but they were an early "signature" monster of 3E so it's nice to see them again. Steve knew what they were but the boys had no idea and were worried about the flying octopus monsters, particularly after one took down the sorcerer. This fight gave us the opportunity to re-familiarize ourselves with the concentration rules and the dying rules so it was very educational.

Millorn - this was a fairly swingy fight. Color Spray is nasty but after that he doesn't have a lot of attack options other than that old wizard staple "light crossbow". This is one place where having the NPC's along did help as it gave the players with downed characters something to do. Firing into melee is still challenging but it's better than nothing. The NPC wizard is blinded which is pretty impairing but he is a summoner so many of his spells do not have a target. I ruled he could summon a creature right next to himself but not at range. The combination of "half of party down during the surprise round" and "target out of melee reach" caused them to hit the panic button and yell at Aravashnial to summon "the biggest thing he can" - which he did, which led to the inevitable harsh-voiced Batman impressions all around the table.

Mongrelmen - In any other universe they would be "mutants" but here they are "mongrelmen". I was glad to see these guys show up to as I have not seen them used in many adventures since their debut in "Dwellers of the Forbidden City" a long time ago. This is the perfect place for them and they make for fine low-level allies and enemies that are not overly familiar to the players. The adventure sort of assumes that eventually the party makes friends with the mongrelmen, either here or at the village though it is not strictly required. I was fairly sure we would have a "misunderstanding" here at first but I underestimated my players - they are playing knights after all! Chivalrous behavior came to the fore and made for a much better session than plowing through a few more monsters.

In 4E crossing the chasm would have been a skill challenge with relevant skills already determined. Here it was far more free-form and I let the players come up with their own solution. It was a solid one, with contingencies for failed climb checks and a lot of good work. I was very happy with the way this went. 

In fact, this was a really good session with a nice mix of combat, poking around, and interaction with NPC's. My players exceeded my expectations and we got a lot done. One of the "first time all over again" experiences I am having with Pathfinder is that combat moves quite quickly. This is the lowest level of the game but the point stands. It allows us to run through quite a bit "more" in each session and that's been really nice. We probably spent more time on crossing the chasm than we did on any single combat this session and I like that.