Friday, March 29, 2013

Savage Swords of Impiltur - Session 6

Returning in triumph - and in a hurry as their ship melts beneath them - our heroes land in Fallcrest and announce their success! After high fives and salutes and raised tankards all around, Marko sneaks off into the crowd, glad to be done with the whole business. The following day, Lord Markelhay appears - accompanied by Lord Reinhardt himself! He announces rewards for the whole party. First up, each receives a 1,000 gold piece bonus. Then, as retainers of the House, Dar and Gravis receive land grants!

Dar is awarded the Tower of Waiting, a ruined tower on an island in the river. He will be the town's Lord Marshall, and the tower will be rebuilt. This will help protect the northern approaches to the town and serve as a staging area for efforts to civilize some of the surrounding wilderness.

Gravis is awarded Vraath Keep, an old holding of House Reinhardt in the nearby Elsir Vale region. It was attacked and destroyed many years ago but the House is on the rise and looking to reclaim its old lands. Gravis will be a big part of this effort, and he is given both the royal decree that endorses his claim and an old map to help him locate his new domain.

Our Heroes (now 5th level):
  • Dar Bloodmane, Shifter Paladin
  • Lt. Alex Gravis, Water Genasi Warlord
  • Zarra, Drow Vampire
  • Gartok, Dwarf Earth Warden
  • Izenheim, Dwarf Cleric of Marthammor Duin
  • No-Name, Elf Bow Ranger 

After several days of preparation most of the party heads out - Dar will remain behind to assume his new duties, while Izenheim has volunteered to help him survey the place to see just how bad it is. Traveling the Nentir Vale takes another few days - uneventful as it happens - and then they cross into the Elsir Vale. Heading for the closest village, Drellin's Ferry, trouble finds them almost immediately.

Moving along a sunken part of the trail, the group spots an abandoned farmhouse and quickly realizes they are in a prime spot for an ambush - the wrong end of an ambush. With a roar somethig throws a volley of javelins at the party, as a blast of flame reaches out from the foliage. Then a humanoid and a huge red hound appear at either end of the trail - hobgoblins! - and they appear to have some hell hounds.

In his element, the ranger with no name unloads a volley of his own, finding a target in the bushes and slaying one of the hobgoblins outright. The warlord, warden, and vampire charge the hidden mage who threw fire - they suspect he is the biggest threat. The hounds and other hobgoblins lope forward into a huge melee around the unfortunate spellcaster.

The warlord is caught in the fiery breath of both beasts as they rush in. The warmage goes on total defense as at least three people are trying to kill him, but is quickly overwhelmed. The ranger nails the hobgoblin commander with two arrows, seriously wounding him, then he scores with two more and slays the humanoid leader as well! The crispy warlord, deeming the hounds to be the next biggest threat lures one into a bad position and defends himself as the dwarf and the drow tear it apart.

Having turned the tide, the rest of the battle goes quickly. The ranger shoots down the hobgoblin spearmen while the melee trio of warlord-warden-vampire beat down the hobgoblin beast-trainer and the remaining hound. After the last enemy falls, the elf scouts the surrounding area and finds no other opposition. Our heroes inspect the farmhouse and decide to spend the night there. They will make for Drellin's ferry in the morning.

DM Notes - This session marked the end of the introductory adventure and the beginning of the meat of the campaign. Cairn of the WInter King is a perfect campaign starter as it has some interesting features but takes place in isolation and is a small 1-level dungeon. This allows the party to get a handle on how to work together and figure out their roles in the group. It also set up nicely to mark the PC"s as upcoming heroes in this part of the kingdom. The land grants served multiple purposes:

Steve was not thrilled with the way Dar was working out mechanically and wanted to try a new character. So, we "retired" him to the Tower of Waiting where he could be brought back in if needed as a replacement, or he could set up to be the first member of a new party if we decided to "fork" the campaign or if we wanted a backup group  - clearly the first adventure would be to explore and clear the tower! Also, in the long run, Dar and the rebuilt tower would make for a nice hook to a successor campaign if we ever ran one.

By granting Gravis a holding in the Elsir Vale I have both a reason for the party to go there AND a reason for them to care about the invasion that's about to happen. This is not subtle, but it makes sense within the campaign and the players liked it - plus it's fairly old school to have a keep at all and it's unusual to have one at 5th level in pretty much any version of D&D. Changing things up helps keep campaigns fresh and helps to distinguish them from one another. We had explored the idea of the party claiming an old keep in the previous campaign (at a higher level than this) but they were TPK'd in the process of doing it so we never saw the payoff for all of that setup. For this campaign I wanted it front and center and so here it was.

If you have played Red Hand of Doom then you probably recognize this first encounter. It starts a long road of adventure that we will be exploring all the way through the rest of that adventure and the rest of Heroic Tier play. We've had a lot of fun with it and writing up this first episode has me smiling as I write it. A lot of people thought it was one of the best 3rd edition D&D adventures - I can tell you it makes a pretty good 4th edition adventure too.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Picture Updates!

I have updated Impiltur sessions 4 and 5 with some pics of the mat and the minis etc so they are 2-3,000 times more interesting than they were before!

Gamers Seeking Gamers is Back Online

The site that went down in 2012 after a hack attack is back up. Lots of activity in my neck of the woods - if you're looking for a game, especially a D&D game, it's worth a look. I see a lot of Shadowrun, Star Wars, and Warhammer too so it's not ALL D&D.

Short and sweet but I thought it was worth a post!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Savage Swords of Impiltur - Session 5

Beginning in the forge room where they battled the tiefling and his friends our heroes start exploring, discovering a series of connected rooms with no obvious inhabitants. Guard rooms, a well, bedchambers, a secret staircase, and then, passing through a secret door, the party finds themselves in a large throne room, Atop a tall dais stands a massive throne, and upon it sits a skeletal figure, sheathed in ice, one hand outstretched as if reaching for something. The halfling Marko steps forward, unwrapping the Ice Scepter as he draws it from his pack and holding it out towards the Winter King. The frozen hand ... moves ...

Not so fast! Gravis steps up as well and begins speaking to the icy figure, trying to determine exactly what they are dealing with. The vampire and the ranger chime in as well in their own special ways. The ice falls away as the undead thing rises to its feet but his menace seems diminished as the party informs him of the vast amount of time that has passed since his day and of the many foes they have defeated.

The King has never dealt with this kind of arrogance! He lashes out with a blast of cold and the fight is on! The warden leaps into melee as the ranger unleashes a volley of shafts. The vampire unleashes her true nature and rips into the Winter King at the foot of his own throne and he staggers back! Then the warlord shouts instructions, moving the team into a perfect position and after another icy blast from the King the vampire strikes, tearing his frozen body asunder, ending the Winter King for all time.

Pausing to contemplate what just happened the adventuring band realizes that in addition to the Ice Scepter they possess there is an icy adornment on the King's head as well. They take it, adding the Crown of Winter to their growing list of magical items. Then the rumbling starts, and ice and water begin to fall from the ceiling - apparently the Winter King helped sustain this place and with his demise it is coming undone!

Urgently the party retraces their steps through a quaking, collapsing cavern, praying that their magical flying ship survives and still functions well enough to get them home. Emerging into the brilliant light of the snowy mountains, it takes a second for them to realize they are not alone - between them and the ship stand some rough-looking fur-clad humans and a monstrosity with two heads - an Ettin!

Our heroes now pause to consider their course of action. Aboard the ship stands Dar Bloodmane, "speechifying" and letting them know just how doomed they are if they dare lay a hand on his vessel while Izenheim loads a crossbow. Moving even more rapidly now, Gartok (the warden) charges the ettin with the intent of locking him down so that the rest of the party can reach the ship. Zarra (the vampire) charges the barbarians with the intent of taking them down before they can do any real damage. Gravis (the warlord) and No-Name (the ranger) move up to support.

One of the barbarians is already down and the dwarf has the ettin under control when an owlbear emerges from the rumbling Cairn, apparently fleeing the place. He rumbles right down the path towards the party, and as he does so, roaring and screeching and hooting, the party realizes this could be trouble.

Poster maps! Props! Pulling out all the stops here!

The vampire is ripping through the barbarians with a little help from the ranger as the dwarf and warlord keep the ettin tied up then the owlbear, moving faster than anticipated, thunders into the ranger, wounding him and forcing him to deal with something right up in his face - not his preferred scenario. Gravis gets too close in an attempt to lend his aid and takes a huge paw to the head for his troubles.

Look! A Bloodied Bow Ranger! This is an incredibly rare sight, so I wanted to memorialize it online!

Finally the ettin and then the last barbarian fall and Gartok and Zarra run back to their companions, leaping into the fray with the owlbear, which is wounded but still fighting mad. The great beast manages to grab the dwarf, nearly crushing him, and tearing into him with its beak, but the tough (and slippery) warden squirms free, just in time for the Zarra to tear into the beast and for No-Name to skewer the thing with twin arrows. As it falls lifeless to the hard-packed and red-stained snow our heroes spare it no further thought, running for the ship  which Dar and Izenheim (and Marko - not at all interested in fighting, but very interested in leaving) have ordered to lift off. Leaping aboard and settling in, the band takes to the oars, pulling the ship through the sky, hoping to make it back to Fallcrest before the ship's icy magic fails completely.

DM Notes: This was another good run, a little more serious than last time. The WInter King encounter has an interesting mechanical setup where the party can cause damage to the king - who is a fairly nasty solo - by succeeding in a skill challenge, making him easier to defeat in combat. Surprisingly my players initiated this with no prompting from me (as they themselves say, they're usually a "Plan A" kind of group) and no knowledge of what this would do, and had some pretty creative uses of Diplomacy, History, Bluff, and Nature to back it up. Things did eventually come to blows but in his weakened (though not THAT weakened) state they took him out in two rounds! 

The Warlord to Vampire connection was tremendous in this session, as she did something close to 100 points of damage in one round and killed the WInter King thanks to normal attack, warlord bonus attack, and warlord action point bonus attack. This was a hint of things to come. Mechanically the Tactical Warlord is extremely effective when paired with the more Essentials type classes that work mainly from a basic melee attack and can then stack damage boosting powers or attack boosting stances on top of it, and the Vamp is that style of character.

Once they killed the king I thought it would be really anticlimactic to have them clear out the last few rooms in this small dungeon, plus it was a pretty magical environment anyway, so I had the place start to collapse - this is not in the adventure as written. This is a DM sensing that it's time to close out the warmup adventure and move things along. That does not mean those unchecked room inhabitants go to waste though! The Ettin and Barbarians were part of an encounter that was not used, and the owlbear was form a different encounter and using the distance and his movement rate I determined he would still be moving out when the party emerged, which made for a more interesting encounter anyway. It made for an appropriately climactic 9-round fight that had everyone sweating but not complaining - not bad! 

Now I normally try to stay away from too much of the whole dramatic embellishment and keep my dungeons more of a sandboxy environment, but I knew that it would probably take at least one more session to finish exploring the place completely. I also felt like walking out the door and getting on the ship like nothing had happened seemed wrong in this case as well. So I went for the big movie ending with the collapsing, melting dungeon and the fleeing monsters fighting for an escape and all of that, Part of having a preference or a style is knowing when to violate it, and that's what I did here. The mission was accomplished, the dungeon was largely explored and cleared, and after 5 sessions it was time to get their pats on the back and move on to the main focus of the campaign. 

Next time: Back to Fallcrest, and the Red Hand of Doom invades 4th edition!

Monday, March 25, 2013

April A to Z 2013

I did this in 2011 and had a lot of fun with it. I skipped it in 2012 but for 2013 I am going to do it again. Here is the basic information:

The Who

Now that we have that out of the way...

The What
My original idea was to review and build a character in a different Superhero RPG each day. I started doing research and realized how badly that matches up with the whole alphabet thing - e.g. 2 entries for A, 5 entries for B, 1 for C, none for K or L, 4 for M, none for O-P-Q, etc. I may still do that, but not for the A to Z month.

Instead I am going to do superhero characters - namely converting a bunch of homegrown heroes (and maybe a few villains) into various superhero RPGs. Most of these will be from my files of late, lamented City of Heroes characters and I will not be doing repeats of ones I have done previously - this will be all new entries. I have multiple characters for each letter, lacking entries only for Q. 

My plan is to have a picture, an ICONS statblock, a Mutants and Masterminds statblock, and then stats for some other game, probably different for each one. I might do Champions for one, BASH for another, Marvel for another, just to keep it interesting. I chose ICONS because it's easy for me to adapt them to that system and it's easy to translate from there into other games. I chose M&M because it will give me a month of practice with building them in HeroLab which can only help and it takes them to a more detailed level. I'm still figuring out which other systems I want to try them in - it will probably vary by character. 

I have 10+ characters to choose from on some of these. Is anyone interested in helping to choose which ones are chosen? Not sure how I would do it but it could be fun. 

The When and The Where
Well it's in April. 2013. So, next week. On this blog. According to this calendar:

The Why
Like this whole blog, I'm doing this mainly for myself, but actual character stats are one of those things other people might be able to use as well. April will substantially increase the amount of hard numbers/drop-in useful content on this blog and that's a good thing too. Maybe you need an NPC on the fly and remember that blog guy had some stats online, or maybe the idea or image inspires a new character for someone out there. Regardless, they will be here.

Motivational Monday

Given the recent events in my campaign this seemed appropriate: