Saturday, April 30, 2016

MY POSTING HABITS

Well I've been posting very intermittently lately because of my Dark Before Dawn multi-modal LARP.  Something about running monthly LARP sessions, with attached downtimes, play-by-posts and tabletop scenes tends to fill up your day!  Especially as it's a high mechanics LARP (lots of rules!) with character sheets and booklets that constantly needed updating.  Things will slowly get back to normal (I think!) after late May once my finale is done.

Meanwhile I'm in the planning stages for the following LARP campaign - Paradise Island (monthly LARP sessions, nothing else), enjoying Southern Wilds LARP (fortnightly boffer LARP), and continuing my Iron Gods and Wrath of the Righteous campaigns (currently on hiatus due to upcoming Finale).

I'm also working on finally doing the Cthulhu campaigns I've always wanted now that I've found a second player with the same love of tactics, investigation and NPC interaction.  It's a little too heavy having to do it solo because of all the decision making required.  Two players should be perfect as it gives each player plenty of time to enjoy their characterisations -- and it's much easier to interrogate a witness with two (maybe three) players than with four to six.

I'll be doing the Cthulhu campaign a little differently, however, because it's me and I like to tinker with settings.  The tinker posts will be their own topic, though, and worth their own post.  I will say that it will be using the Trail of Cthulhu rules and that I might start in Innsmouth and move on to Masks of Nyarlathotep and then finish up with Mountains of Madness.  Presuming we have the energy for all of these!  And then Achtung Cthulhu may tempt me.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Wrath of the Righteous: The Midnight Isles (Getting There)

Wow!  I haven't updated Wrath of the Righteous for awhile.  So let's see if I can recap.  They obtained everything they needed and were pulled in to meet Queen Galfrey and the Herald of Iomedae in Nerosyan's Pathfinder Lodge.  There they were given their marching orders to assault Minagho's hideout, enter the Abyss, seal the rift behind them (with Queen Galfrey's assistance) and disrupt the Nahyndrian Crystal routes on the Abyssal side.

So they teleport to Minagho's hide out, well their teleportation goes awry so they need to spend some time journeying to it, and slowly slaughter the demonic inhabitants.  They do leave the cambion alive when he makes a deal for his life.  He is an alchemist whose worked on the Nahyndrian crystals, after all, so he seems useful to them.  He's also labouring under the delusion that they are Lawful Good (rather than Neutral Good and Chaotic Neutral) and that they'll obey their oaths to the letter (not truly understanding how lawful humans can adapt).
He gets charmed by Minagho (luckily they spot it and don’t figure it for a betrayal) and fights on her side until he's injured.  Then he spends his time using cure potions and staying out of it until fully healed, by which time Minagho and the others are all destroyed.  Then Queen Galfrey and her troops arrive and are disgusted by the sight of the cambion, but are willing to escort him to Drezen for interrogation.

Our heroes enter the abyssal rift while Queen Galfrey positions herself on the other side, and the two groups shove two pages from the Codex into the rift and chant it closed.
I skipped a few of the battles on the way through the caves as they weren't all that exciting compared to what was upcoming and wouldn't have proven a challenge anyway.  They reached the temple, correctly guessed the puzzle, and appeared in Alyshinyra. 

We then took a few weeks off as I had a bit of a think about what I'd like to do there.  After all, the book can't devote much space to describing it fully and truly and I didn't want it to feel like Cheliax for demonkind or only as strange as Kaer Maga.  I think I did a good job, in the end.  You can judge for yourself when I write it up next week!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Iron Gods: Beating "Father"


It's been a few weeks since the last one so I can't remember all of the details.  I know they took out the robots in the last room and then decided to go and chase down some information on their friendly neighbourhood drug dealing merchant whom they are damn sure is a Technic League spy.  Our lovely tiefling seduces him and the others (plus Cleric of Brigh as a witness) rock up to interrogate him under a spell that prevents him from lying.

Sanvil Trett deflects their questions for awhile before finally drawing his sword … and being soundly beaten and grappled.  Then he finally admits that he is a Technic League spy, but he's willing to defect so long as he can investigate the ruins once they're done.  They accept this possibility but keep him under house arrest at the Evercandle Inn for awhile as they go off to get a broken elevator part repaired (which takes a couple days due to bad rolls).

Once they have the part repaired, they decide to follow up on a lead given by their newfound "friend" into certain strange activities at a particular warehouse run by Garmen Ulreth.  While approaching the warehouse, they start getting headaches.  Going inside they find a couple thugs and having decided that punishing the previous thug left them with a bad taste in their mouth, they went non-lethal.

All except for Nathaniel who decides to go for the kill.

When the thugs press their attack, they manage to bolt the door on Nathaniel who stealths away and around the building, brooding.  The others manage to get inside and head into the office to try and intimidate Garmen Ulreth who's sitting in his makeshift office.  In the end, when Luna tries to open the wrong thing (or rather, the right thing), Garmen calls in his guards and attack.

Luna keeps the various doors shut and bolted while Garmen tries to get his troops in, and they kill Garmen Ulreth.  Once their boss is dead, they open the door and use his corpse as a reminder that the thugs should run.  Which they do.  Promptly.

They find a strange device in the warehouse but they don't yet know what it does.

And that's where we left them.

Dark Before Dawn Session Summary: Meeting Nurse Cassandra

The Angel of Mercy arrived to collect votes.
The Angel of Mercy came to collect votes.
All LARPs run a little differently.  Some use dice and others use boffer swords.  Some use narrative devices to guide the game (i.e. lighting changes) and others throw in external events.  Therefore it can be enlightening to read about the ins and outs of other LARPs to understand more about the format and all it can do.  In the interests of sharing information on how different LARPs can run, this will be the first of a 25 week series of posts on a Dark Before Dawn campaign summary.

The Dark Before Dawn campaign is a Vampire: the Requiem LARP which focuses on the unlives of the Adelaide court as they come to grips with terrible conspiracies and incredible finds and sits as firmly in the occult investigation genre as it does in the tragic horror genre.  Since this campaign is actually the second in the same setting, but most of the players from the first campaign couldn’t return to reprise their roles, most of the vampires were either new to the city or had returned after years inter-state or in torpor.

The game began with one Carthian (original campaign), two Circle of the Crone (one from the original campaign and one quite new) and the rest belonged to the pseudo scientific Ordo Dracul.  For a time new players could only bring in characters for the Ordo Dracul but later people could create characters for the Circle of the Crone as well.

Although the Dark Before Dawn is multi-modal, using forums and tabletop sessions to solve plots and deepen character connections, this series will *only* provide summaries of the LARP sessions although the final two posts will discuss how including a forum and a tabletop component affected the LARP.

On Saturday, 5th December 2014, we began with an occult mystery where a dozen vampires (either pre-generated with some advice from the players or returning from the original campaign) who all expected a different event, location and even era when they arrived.  There were folk in lab coats, police uniforms and masquerade ball gowns, and each vampire was shocked and confused at the situation they found themselves in.

The Ordo Dracul.

After the initial confusion, the vampires quickly realised that the location held many clues in the artwork, alchemical solutions and even spirit-possessed shrines that populated the hall.  They also found a warning, or perhaps a threat, written on both the chalkboard and even projected onto a screen at various points.

Soon they came to realise that four possessing spirits of darkness (strix) would be released into the venue to possess one of the vampires every hour and twenty, give or take.  These spirits would have vital information they would be compelled to provide to the vampires in their own way but they would also be vicious threats if allowed to linger too long.  Should the vampires fail to root them out and exorcise them, they will find themselves quickly overwhelmed as each additional one is released to possess another vampire.

The vampires were informed that they had been provided with several exorcismal techniques which lurked within the hall but each technique could only be used on one person.  If an exorcism was attempted on the wrong person, the entities would adapt and the technique would cease to work.
The unafflicted vampires performed admirably under pressure, though the first possession turned to be a very tricky beast indeed, but as their own secrets began to come to light they started to turn their attention back to the greater question: Why had they been brought here?  Who was the person who had done this to them?

The words projected on the screen revealed themselves to be sent by Nurse Cassandra, a ghostly victim of a mystical accident caused by one of the characters, who had been flung into some kind of arcane machine deep within the city and who had constructed this realm to communicate with them.
Things finally came to a head when a mysterious stranger arrived with a choice for those present.

Would they empower Nurse Cassandra or would they allow an ancient deity to slowly regain control of the city?  A few picked the ghostly figure, still fewer picked the deity.  Most chose to walk their own path and refused to choose at all.

In the end, the ancient occultist, Yzador, of the Circle of the Crone made a  deal with the angelic messenger that was an abjuration in disguise.  She was banished from their realm.

The doors to the outside world finally opened and the vampires were allowed to leave.  Many did so in silent contemplation, a great contrast to the chaos and confusion that had reigned for hours earlier.

Since their pre-generated characters had history in Adelaide and connections to each other, many of the players then chose to keep their characters rather than make new ones for 2015.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Iron Gods: Comeuppance

*NOTE* I don't know the various character's psychologies well enough to hazard any more than a guess to their motivations thus this will be heavily biased toward Mikhel's experiences as he's an NPC whose psychology I therefore know.

Every so often there is a session that defines the course of a campaign and the party itself.  This was most assuredly that session though where it's ripples will take them I still don't know.  So we did a flashback in time now that the player of our alchemist, Cerulean, was here so that we could cover her finally meeting our indentured servant, Mikhel.

Mikhel is the fellow swindled them out of 5 gold pieces in a con that netted him a total of 15gp from the entire town.  The poverty-stricken party, however, had their eyes dazzled by the high odds and the chance of instant wealth simply for survival and so had started imagining the 360 gold was already in their pouch.  They also assumed that the amount of gold Mikhel had procured from those betting against him was quite a high amount, too, and that he had drunk away hundreds of gold worth of winnings rather than a paltry sum of 15gp as most won't bet gold on the loss of more lives. 

Once they had tracked him down they took his gear worth around 220gp (masterwork studded leather, cure light wounds potion) but still felt robbed and wanted compensation for the 140gp they were sure he had spent on a single night of debauchery.

So they took him for punishment from the law.  Mayor Drolga typically would brand someone for a swindle but she couldn't allow people to cheat the heroes of Torch or else everyone would do it and ignore the imposed 20% voucher.  She threatened to lop off his hand and the two good characters (likely due to drugs) chose instead to inflict a punishment of six months indentured servitude to pay back the rest of the reneged bet.

During the morning conversation, they set the tone of future encounters by calling him little more than a pack mule and alternately joking about using him to find traps the more deadly way and threatened to take off his foot if he tried to run.  When he pointed out that with promises like that he would be better off with Mayor Drolga, Maxx kept trying to determine if he actually would like to lose a hand as that could always be arranged since she simply saw Mikhel as a liability.  In Maxx's mind he was just seeking clarification, but to Mikhel's ears he was being told he'd better shut up about his conditions or else he'd lose the hand for sure.  At this point it was starting to look like a better deal.

So then we jumped forward to the current point in time where the group had cleared half the science deck.  They proceeded to clear out the various plant creatures who had erupted from the Brigh worshipper's chests, though I played them out to be more primordial and alien than the actual description in the books because it felt more thematically appropriate.  When they came across the bodies of the Brigh worshippers they realised that the fungus-encrusted person they had returned to his fiancĂ© would soon burst open himself (if he hadn't already).

The party felt no urgency hurrying back to warn anyone of the impending chest burster (perhaps figuring the fiancĂ© already dead) and thought it better to understand the chest bursters first.  It seemed a rational idea at the time, though really they had handled the others well enough with bombs and sword.  Still Maxx wanted to do autopsies on the body to learn more about the disease so that they could better deal with it and the others agreed to wait.

Mikhel, though a Chaotic Neutral lowlife, felt greater urgency at saving the lives of those at the Guild Hall and snuck away as he assumed the party too callous to care and as likely to chain him up as to hurry back with him.  He left the rest of their gear in the lobby but stole a single masterwork hammer so that he could defend himself, and escaped.  Now there was a crowd of people waiting by the lake and he could have told them of the danger but he knew that as an indentured servant, and one little trusted, they'd spend so much time arguing and claiming he was just being a swindler that the Guild Hall merchants would all soon be slain.

So he swam the river awhile, taking advantage of Water Breathing, though he had no swim skill and came out on the river bank to follow the hill around toward the Guild Hall.  The Guild Hall stood a very short distance away from his home.  He entered through the rear window and saw the creature carving at the door to the store room where the people hid and battered it to death with the hammer.  Fearing  the party would soon come to chop off his feet, and doubting very much they would care for his heroism, he slipped back out that very same window and crept off home and then down the hill to a small bolt hole.

Along come the party after fifteen minutes of autopsy, finally realising he was missing.  Since they thought him a lowlife they never considered he might care enough to try to save those at the Guild Hall.  They discuss the matter and decide that the bulk of the party should carry on after the runaway prisoner (tilting toward Law) while a couple head off to inform the right people and save those at the guild (tilting toward Good).

Bort, the blackfire adept, and Cerulean rush off to the Guild Hall and thus get there first.  They see the door has been mostly broken down, and the body of the green thing, and see that a dog had been mauled with blood spattered everywhere.  They ensure the group is safe and separate the one possibly infected person from the others while Bort races off to get the priests.

Meanwhile, Luna follows Mikhel's trail past the back wall of the Guild House with Nathaniel and Maxx.  Her Perception check to follow such a long trail isn't good enough to tell that he hopped in and out of the window and so they follow it to his home and then out down the cliff.  Mikhel hears them and flees his bolt hole so Nathaniel knocks him out with telekinetically thrown stones and Maxx picks him up, as well as the hammer, which is smeared with green goop.

They take him back to the Mayor and, not thinking to mention a possible plague of chest bursting creatures (presumably due to the assumption that Bort and Cerulean have it handled), take Mikhel for his punishment.  Mayor Drolga chooses not to wake him up, as a kindness, since this could be considered a form of anaesthesia.  She uses a Cure Light Wounds to heal the stump afterward, though I chose not to have Mikhel immediately wake up as should happen by the rules because I didn't really want to roleplay his reaction.

Maxx takes the severed hand to examine out in the foyer just as Cerulean and Bort come up to the entrance after following the trail.  Bort is horrified, though Nathaniel and Maxx, at least, still feel vindicated for their actions because the man did swindle them and run.  The punishment for running away from indentured service is the loss of a hand.  Thus it is appropriate.  Nathaniel even used a metaphor that if they hadn't punished Mikhel simply because he saved a few lives it would be like killing twenty people to save forty.  Besides, they reasoned, he probably only saved them because they were on his way.

Maxx and Nathaniel both agreed that Mikhel should be rewarded for his efforts but by the town and not themselves for he assisted the town, but wronged them.

When Mayor Drolga is informed of the situation, she *is* horrified but maintains that Mikhel will provide caution to those who would swindle the heroes of Torch.  However word that Mikhel saved one of the richest families in town and had his hand severed for it would undermine everything she had worked for so she tells them that she will give them credit for the rescue so long as they keep quiet about Mikhel's part in the heroism.

Though the Chaotic Good drugs are wearing off, and even once the drugs are gone he tells Mayor Drolga to give his portion of the reward for rescuing Khonnir Baine to Mikhel when he awakens.  He then gets another dose of the drugs from Luna to make himself Chaotic Good again and goes to comfort the people at the Guild Hall.  The following day he uses Mending and Prestidigitation to remove the blood and fix the door.

The Guild Hall offer to purchase the three masterwork hammers at 200gp per piece, rather than the typical half price of 150gp, though they lack the gold and instead give store credit which can also be traded at other local stores.  What better way to reward their heroes?  And the party accepts the line of credit and thus participates in a fraudulent swindle of their own.  Maxx doesn't realise the real price of the masterwork hammers, knowing little of economics, though at least some of the others would be aware (and I did mention it in GM talk but it's a big chatty table of five so some information is lost).

They returned to the Science Deck and took out the last few chest bursters and then attacked the two robots in the final room, knocking them down though most of the damage was dealt by the alchemist who had been tripped by the first stun gun.  They have yet to explore the final room which will be the beginning of the next adventure.

Iron Gods: Medical Care

This is the second half of the session (Your brain on drugs) where Bort is still affected by the "good drugs" and is Chaotic Good.  They have Mikhel as a henchman, but since the alchemist player is away we decided that we'd come back with a little "retro" scene in the next session which will go over her reaction to the news of their new assistant.
 
They headed back through the caverns (hearing gremlins but seeing none) and through the corridors toward the big habitat dome.  Bort pointed out that he didn't need to worry about the trap with all the nozzles and Mikhel shrugged and said, "I'm not.  It's not a trap."  And he kept walking.
 
They headed through the sandy habitat cautiously and all was fine until someone mentioned that he should watch out for skeletons bursting out through the sands.  That made him a little worried so Luna took pity on him and let him ride her "medium" dragon.  The bonus of riding a medium creature is that you can stand up by just lowering your legs so it meant he could dismount easily in a fight.
 
They finally used their black card to get into the next session and were stunned by the sight of the foyer.  They'd never seen anything like it, especially in a fortress under a hill!  Sleek furniture, strange design!  They found another screen on a desk in the entrance but it just showed flashes of imagery. 
 
They took the bloodstained door and corridor and arched around to where the cerebric fungus spoke to them.  Nathaniel freaked out and telekinetically threw a rock at it (geology lab) but missed of wildly that the fungus didn't see it as anything but random chance of a falling stone.  The others spoke to it calmly and suddenly creeped out by its talks of red food send it down the blood smeared corridor to eat.
 
They entered a set of labs where a medical bot attacked them and tried to knock dear Maxx onto one of the medical terror chairs but she used her attack of opportunity (no Improved Reposition on the robot) to destroy it.  Mikhel stood back and watched them fight.
 
They kept wandering around that area and found a lab with a medical robot and a flying robot.  Luna just shut the door.  When no one followed them, they moved on.
 
I removed the boilborn oozes from one of the lab rooms as it wasn't as interesting as having the room be an empty wonder of broken bits and pieces, and I was rewarded when Maxx examined the history of the place and saw someone clinging to a desk for dear life as gravity jerked her toward a wall, broken glass raining down on her face.
 
I will remove creatures if they're not super interesting since my players aren't as super eager for fights as the typical party and would become bored if there were too many of them.
They then entered the elevator, determined which deck they were on and then in stunned disbelief discussed that decks must mean ships!  Of course, this being a fantasy land meant that the idea of sky ships wasn't too outlandish (unlikely, as they're super-rare in pathfinder, but not unheard of in myth and legend).
 
Finally they entered a room with a set of small stalls to one side with doors that didn't quite reach the top or the bottom….  Bort's player chortled at this, realising at once what it was.  The players marvelled the clean drinking fountains (made them all bidet toilets) and wondered at the easily shredded yet soft parchment that came out from beside them. 
 
During their wonder, they hear a flush in the toilet beside them as Mikhel comes out and uses the sink downward fountain (sink faucet) to wash his hands.  Being a pragmatic sort, he'd figured it was the best place to go to the toilet as it would remove it immediately.  Better than the skeleton-creation-sands that would normally be used!
 
After a few moments of telling him off, the party soon realised in dismay that his use just made too much damn sense and that it was likely an incredibly wonderful latrine.  Maxx and Bort then made use of it as well.
 
I tell you, there's nothing more surreal than playing characters wondering at something we take for granted on a daily basis!  And to be honest, their wonder only increased when they realised it was a sewerage system.  Toilets really are a marvel of engineering.  Next time you go and sit on the toilet seat you should think back to all the alternatives and thank your lucky stars that you get loo paper and a comfy spot.
 
And that's where we ended it.
 
Could there be a greater high point for a session conclusion?

Iron Gods: This is your brain on drugs


Maxx looks like the woman pictured above.
Feeling drained and with few cure potions to spare, they retreated back to town and found themselves cheered by the crowds gathered at the lake.  They had nothing to identify, really, but still found themselves talking to Sanvil Trett regarding the location and how he knew so much about technology.  During this time our dear alchemist wandered off (as the player couldn't attend) to try to brew some cure potions on her own.

A few Heal and Perception checks later and Luna noted that he was a regular user of different drugs, which she quietly related to the others as they headed with Sanvil to the Copper Coin for some food. 

They queried him on his drug use and he pointed out that he was an intermittent user of some high quality drugs and revealed his current stash included Devil Weed (basically marijuana), Powderlite (cocaine) and a mysterious golden liquid called Sarenrae's Tears that had to be injected into the carotid artery to work.  They asked him whether he was with the Technic League since they were the most likely to have such elaborate drugs but he demurred and claimed that he had met all kinds of interesting people and who was he to say who they worked for?  They left it at that.

Since Bort had a history with Sarenrae, having forbid Maxx from selling his cold iron scimitar with its Sarenrae mark, he immediately decided he wanted the Tears which were 10gp per dose (at this stage) but lacked the resources to pay.  Luna bought five doses for him, gave him one and one for Maxx.  She also bought 10 doses of devilweed at 1gp per dose (at this stage).  The devilweed had no impact on Maxx.

The Sarenrae's Tears certainly did.

When Bort took it he felt … different.  Lighter.  He felt that people were innately good, and merely led astray.  He felt that one good turn deserved another and that there was never an excuse for cruelty.  In short his alignment was changed from Chaotic Neutral to Chaotic Good.

Maxx's impression was less emotive, and more intellectual.  There was a certain way of doing things and it felt wrong to divert from that.  She became Lawful Good.  Immediately she thought of the death-bet they had thus far failed to gain their winnings from way back in Session 1 when they bet against their own survival at the odds of 72 to 1.  They had failed to find that fine fellow, Mikhel, in their last foray to the gambling hall so they decided to try again after lunch.

Leaving Sanvil Trett behind, and with Nathaniel none the wiser of their deals since they'd taken Sanvil aside to make the purchases, they head back to the Silverdisk Hall and find themselves barred at the entrance by a half-orc because the hall opened later in the day.  She also refused to give them Mikhel's home address.

So Maxx offered a bet -- 50gp for a competition of strength (arm wrestle) and should she win, she'd gain the information and 50gp.  The half-orc refused the amount and offered instead 25gp and the information, since Maxx stood to earn more than she did.  They ended up talking her up to 40gp, but they wouldn't tell anyone she'd lost the arm wrestle should she lose.  She accepted those terms, and luckily Maxx won the arm wrestle.

Off they went to the edge of town only to discover Mikhel living the high life in his hovel, groggy from being woken by them at his door, and as naked as the day he was born.  There was also a man and a woman in his bed.  His masterwork studded leather armour over a stool, his gear on a chest.

First they demanded their gold but Mikhel claimed to have banked it on their behalf in a town a few days away (since he assumed that one of their frequent forays would slay them all he had to do was delay them).  Maxx served him a Notice of Intent to Sue which he gleefully accepted since that would also take a few days to organise and by then he was sure they would be dead.  Luna then threatened him, which had more of an effect, but Maxx was adamant that the law should be invoked and that his fraudulent ways should land him in prison.

Mikhel scoffed at this.  Prison?  Here a misdemeanour meant a brand on the back, theft meant a lost finger or hand, and anything greater meant death.  Prisons were far too rare and expensive to operate.  Still they dragged him before the dwarven mayor, so they could at least confiscate his gear, hoping she would shake the remaining gold out of him, but it turned out that Mikhel merely didn't have the gold to give them.

Instead the weary dwarven mayor, outraged that a local would attempt to hoodwink their town's only hope, and meaning to make a lesson out of him, took them to another room where a single heavy still manacle sat bolted to a heavy table.  Mikhel was quiet now, resigned, but the drug-induced goodness in the party prevented them from allowing it.

Instead Maxx suggested indentured servitude, which surprise the mayor.  What use was Mikhel?  She agreed easily enough, though, being Lawful Neutral she'd take off his hand but take no joy in it. 

Maxx asked why they had no prison and she mentioned the expense in making a good one, that bad ones were soul-destroying, and that good ones would be too comfortable.  He asked why they didn't use indentured servitude more often and she pointed out that the Technic League did all the time … for decades at a time (i.e. slavery).

Unsettled at the lack of an easy option in Numeria, but confidant that she herself would release the man, Maxx offered Mikhel the chance to pay off his debts and he agreed.  They still took his potion and armour, giving him the alchemists non-masterwork armour instead, and brought him back into the strange fortress under the hill on their foray the following morning.

Mikhel probably would have tried to escape, but he had no Disable Device (same stats used as for any Ropefist) plus Maxx didn't need to sleep so watched him all night.  The drugs wore off Maxx early (natural 20 on her Fortitude save) but not from Bort which was lucky because Maxx started having second thoughts about Mikhel's usefulness.

They had their breakfast and then headed back inside, and that's where I'll leave it, though it's only half the session told but this is the part that our dear alchemist missed.