Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Wrath of the Righteous: New Encounter (Children of Drezen)

Story Summary
Yaniel was a bright-eyed paladin who made frequent forays into the worldwound atop her mighty steed and but for a few tumbles with an aasimar paladin she was focused on her work.  Her focus caused her to ignore certain signs of pregnancy until it was too late and she had been snatched by Abyssal forces and granted to the Invidiak in 4694.  He soon discovered her pregnancy and took great delight in wearing her while describing the symptoms of her pregnancy and the guarantee of her child's soon-to-be warped nature.

Although she knew that her child would be tainted, Yaniel could not help but call out to a gentler goddess for assistance in granting one wish.  She prayed to Shelyn to ensure that her child would know her love, no matter what would happen later, for the child was blameless in its affliction.  Shelyn could no more get involved in rescuing Yaniel and her child from their fate than Iomedae but this wish she could grant.

While Yaniel survived the birth, she did not survive long for soon after she was taken by another demoness and cocooned so that the demon could wear her likeness.  Her child, on the other hand, was passed into the communal nursery with all of the others.  There was some concern that he would consume the other children but none would deny the Invidiak's wishes (at least, none who would care).

The child's celestial blood would normally have been entirely extinguished but for the ever present love he felt from his mother.  Instead it interwove with the Abyssal infusion of essence just enough to allow the son a tiny crack, a mere sliver, of human conscience.  This was never enough to make him a good person, or even neutral, but it allowed him to have human attachments fostered by his understanding of a mother's love for her child.  This makes him redeemable with the same strength of chaotic evil alignment as would be found in tieflings on the nastier side of the band.

It is now 4713.  The child, Willem, is now seventeen, though he has aged more slowly and therefore has the mind, build and maturity of a thirteen-year-old.  Rather than being treated as impressive or special, he has lived his life much like any other tiefling - albeit one who was more dangerous to cross.  He is a 1st level expert who spent much of his life in the mines being treated as simple by the other humans who didn't realise that he was simply aging more slowly.


Once the PCs' army finish taking apart Drezen's defences, Willem will approach them from the cover of the one of the buildings and offer information on the whereabouts of the two nursery and mine/school.  Willem doesn't fancy his chances out in the open with them, presuming he'll be destroyed, and will attempt to flee out the back window and fly away if they approach him. 

Any attempts to Sense Motive (DC 15) him will reveal that he isn't leading them into a trap, that he fears for his own safety and that he doesn't trust them an inch with his own life but believes that the children have a better chance with paladins (whom he assumes will execute them) than with the cultists (whom he assumes will ritually slaughter them in agonising rites of apology to their demonic masters). 

Attempts to Intimidate him into surrendering will automatically fail unless they can surround / trap him (which is hard to do with his incorporeal options, see "Half-Invidiak" template in Demons Revisited).  Attempts to Bluff him into giving further information as a distraction while others circle around behind him may work (his Sense Motive is +6) but only for 1d4+2 rounds (enough for a single question and answer).  Attempts to use Diplomacy into gathering his trust is particularly hard (DC 35 as he is hostile / terrified for his life).  It is easier to use Diplomacy on him once he is captured as by that point he will feel that there is no point fighting them.

If they attack him, they will likely immediately kill him with an attack or two so do give them a Sense Motive check to determine his motivations especially once they see what he truly looks like.  It's hard to confuse a half-demon with a tiefling, after all.

Capturing him alive will net them 1d6 goods and 1d4 potions as he tries to curry their favour.  He will remain with them for a single night before whisperings among the paladins spook him into trying to flee again.  He won't run if they win over Mr. Fiprac (located in the school) as he trusts the man as a sort of father figure.  Instead he will want a sword and the chance to join them in an attack against his father.  He won't survive a delve into the basement so it's best they leave him behind.

Deskari Nurseries

Due to the risks of raising children around surly, hostile and aggressive demons, the humanoid and tiefling armies have taken to hiding their children away within two underground nurseries built into basements -- halving the chance of a bored demon choosing to murder all of the cultists children at once.  The children's tiefling lineage is the only thing that protects them from rickets due to lack of sunlight and the clerics that look after them are harsh but not particularly abusive for fear of angering the various parents of such children.  After all, only the children of important cultists are raised in relative safety here rather than with their families.

1. Deskari Temple Entrance: Five lvl 3 clerics (see Scholar Priest, NPC Codex) kneel on red cushions around a bowl of haemophagic locusts placed before a carved idol of Deskari.  They frequently make offerings of blood from their own wrists to the swarm.  The locust swarm will remain in its bowl unless the intruders attack.  While diplomacy is an option, it will only work on a DC 30 roll.

2. Living Area: This area simply has a hearthfire, table and two bench seats capable of seating three people each.  There are cooking utensils and a small open scullery and pantry beside the hearthfire.  The pantry contains enough supplies to keep the toddlers and clerics fed for a week.  Should the PCs choose a genocidal answer to these children, they can gain 3 points of consumable food for their armies instead.

3. Bedroom: There are three bunk beds in this room as well as an elaborate stone altar to Deskari with a few old blood stains upon it.  Depending on your player's sensibilities (i.e. trigger warning), you might include a flip up lid revealing a chamber full of flesh eating beetles with a stack of oddly shaped babies' skulls and bones forming a decorative mural on one wall.  The clerics ritualistically murder children who have some visible disability.

4. Nursery: Thirteen tiefling babies lie in make-shift cots with a range of different tiefling aspects - including the odd qlippoth marking due to certain primal abyssal energies rather than bred heritage.  Three bottles of breast milk sit on the dresser.  These self-cleaning conjuration bottles can each provide sustenance to a baby seven times per day. 

5. Playroom: Eight toddlers play together with makeshift toys on dirty bedding.  There is a cage in this room for disobedient toddlers.   All are tieflings due to the contamination of the Worldwound.

NOTE: These tiefling babies and toddlers are all Chaotic Neutral though they are by no means easy to raise (i.e. babies are demanding, frequently cry for no real reason, rarely sleep through the night; toddlers are destructive, stubborn and throw more tantrums than normal).

Schoolyard Mine

These clerics are less considerate of their charges.  All but one fully enjoy inflicting unfair punishments for random irritations to keep the children on their toes as any claimed child would have been returned to their parents for training at this point.  Once a tiefling child turns approximately five years old they are sent to 'school'.  There is a miniature celebration for the new attendees who are fed cake and apple juice and allowed to play in the front room.  They're even allowed a night's stay in real beds (otherwise occupied by the cultist slave drivers). 

The following morning, though, the previous day's lies are ripped away and they are bullied mercilessly into the mines.  Once the kids hit puberty they are drafted into the army (if needed) or left to work the mines.  The half-invidiak, Willem, was an exception to this because he chose to remain in the mines despite the ill-treatment of others, finding safety and succor in the darkness.

Only one individual, Mr. Fiprac, has been good to the children.  Mr. Fiprac is a true neutral level 8 elf ranger (see Orc Slayer in NPC codex but amend favoured enemy to humans).  During a sortie into the wildlands, he was startled by a fiendish bear and fell into a crevasse during a sandstorm, breaking his leg.  Against all odds he managed to crawl / hobble back to Drezen but found the demons less than friendly, barely managing to hide in the school mine.

Although he is a capable ranger, Mr. Fiprac lacked friends among the cultists and therefore couldn't get his leg injury healed.  Since demons have little patience with those who show weakness around them, he knew that leaving the school for long would be a short route to death.  He managed to retain his position in the mine as a teacher, using his obvious patience and guile to successfully ensure the school made its quote of distance per day, even through bedrock.  This proved vital to the cultists as failure to meet requirements meant a cultist would lose a limb and two of the kids.

When the invasion happened, Mr. Fiprac faked the children's escape and instead hid them in the furthest section of the tunnel system.  They managed to roll two barrels of water with them when the fighting broke out but are now desperately hungry but too scared to leave in case the cultists sacrifice them to please Deskari. 

The cultists themselves retreated to the upper areas once it became obvious the city would fall.  Now they surround Priestess Halla, a vicious 8th level cleric of Deskari (base off the Death Priest in the NPC codex), who had been making a deal with some of the lower ranking clerics when the armies attacked.  Finding herself cut off from the rest of the battle above, she decided to wait below until the paladins were defeated.  She has summoned two Incubi to her side and is in the process of sacrificing her cultists so that they might arise more quickly from Abyssal larvae.

Front House: Entering the mines is relatively easy if you know where it is.  The house is one of many taken over by cultists and the door to the mines has a bracket where a heavy wooden bar would be slid into place each night to keep the children inside.  There is currently no bracket in place.

Cellar: The uppermost room within the mining complex was once a cellar that has been updated with a large table and benches, shelves along one wall containing various tools, a few barrels of food and ale, and a wardrobe full of tattered children's clothing and the sleeping mats they use at night.  The clerics themselves slept upstairs.  There is no light source in here.  The children are expected to live by their darkvision.  A long ladder leads down at a ramp-like angle for forty feet over a deep gap to a ledge-like protrusion.

Ledge: This thick six-foot-wide ledge contains down and around the edge of the hole, occasionally broken up and requiring another ramp, with a couple of passageways snaking off of it.  The hole is far deeper than this ledge (created by earth shifting magic) reaches.  The low intonement of prayers to Deskari can be heard in one of the side passageways.

Chanters Room: Halla believes that Deskari can be appeased by sacrificing one cultist a night for their cowardice.  She first carves the group's sins into the sacrifice's skin before bloodily butchering them upon an altar.  The sacrifice itself is pleased to be so anointed and chants alongside the rest.  There are no children in this room.  When Halla sees the PCs, she will attack as will her Incubi and five remaining cultists who have the same stats as those in the nursery.

Bolt Hole: This room is at the end of one of the abandoned passageways.  The cultists assumed there was no one here because they figured that the children would have gotten hungry and gone to find them.  Instead they all crouch in one small partial tunnel that branches off a long and winding one, using another such room as the latrine.  They are hungry and desperate.  Mr. Fiprac defends them with his life but if they clearly serve the paladin army or a good God, then he will throw himself at their mercy and hope that they may all be freed.  Since the PCs are likely to outright attack him, it's best to give them a Sense Motive DC 15 roll to identify his defensive and protective demeanour, otherwise they may slaughter him before realising their error.  There are 35 kids - all tieflings.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Wrath of the Righteous: Sword of Valor: Part C

I was extremely excited to run this book as it meant we could play with armies ... something my solo player would be quite keen to do.  So when we grabbed the Armies Character Sheet and popped in the Heirs to the Wardstone paladin army and his custom tiny Rosethorn Army, we were excited to see how it played through.  I wasn't as sure about Part C as I tend to find dungeons quite boring but this one worked out pretty well.  My only petty gripe is that there were a number of blank rooms in the dungeon and I had no idea what they might been used for beyond defensive measures.  It wasn't such a big deal as I have a vivid imagination but it still made me occasionally pause to think.
I'll admit it.  I don't have a head for rules.  I can deal with the basics but I'm likely to forget the meaning of certain feats and spells.  Rather than have my head in a book for most of the game, quickly cross referencing and checking, I either ignore it, query my player (who has a better head for rules) or use the online SRD quietly while he's busy setting up his four characters' next actions.
That's right.  Four characters!  He doesn't roleplay them all, only Alfie and very occasionally the new guy when he can think of something snippy to say to the dragon (now a very young dragon rather than a wyrmling).  He does control them during combat and level them up occasionally.  Other than dealing with their inventory, he's enjoying it pretty well.  Taking Sosiel in the second strike at Castle Drezen tipped him over the line on occasion a few times but as that cleric was only Level 5, he was relegated to walking healer anyway.
So who was the magical fourth helper?
I thought this game was heavy on demons and light on celestials, so I threw in a Vulpinal as support - sent by Shelyn herself.  After all, why is the Worldwound *only* a mortal concern?
It's not a fault with the adventure path, which focuses on players actions after all, but I saw an opportunity so I took it.  My player therefore equipped the Vulpinal, Harri, with some of the loot that he found and the game progressed.
So the first strike at Castle Drezen found them badly affected by the fireballing brimoraks in the gatehouses and they only survived that because the Vulpinal teleported into one of the rooms and unlocked it from the inside, allowing them all to flee inside and heal up while the brimoraks came out of their room and entered from the outside.  They took out the vrock with better ease this time, in part due to the dragon's increase in damage die and number of attacks. 
They had to fall back after the encounter with the succubus - she managed to charm them all after suggesting that the vulpinal state she isn't evil and then commanded three of them to wait outside in case of enemy attacks while she had a conversation with Alfie.  She proceeded to try to find his resentment toward Drezen but, failing that, decided to simply seduce the fool.  She inflicted four negative levels before he managed to succeed on the Suggestion roll to stop kissing her.  Realising he'd been injured by her broke the charm effect and he grabbed her in a grapple and started damaging her.  It was a rough fight but he managed to kill her in a nook, using her as a defense against the charmed crusaders. 
They then headed back to base with Alfie feeling very sorry for himself - having lost his first kiss to a demoness!  Lex, the Umbral Dragon, didn't help when she regaled him with how those who die from a succubus' kiss are damned to the pit and their bodies rise again as undead.  She also poked fun at his obvious anxiety about discussing sex, calling Mendevians prudes.  Then she grew bored and went to sleep, leaving him to have a heart to heart with Eliska.  Eliska tried to coax out of him any aspects of his tiefling nature, but other than a destructive and impulsive personality, he was pretty good.  Gooder than good almost.
She pronounced him an aasimar in disguise and they had a little laugh about that, before she mentioned that she and her team were once Nidalese slaves who had been washed in negative energy as babes in their mothers' womb so that they could work a particular mine.  She was the most dhampyr of the lot of them (the others were a variant dhampyr of my construction - they gain darkvision and negative energy affinity but retain the bonus skills of a human).  She stated that their inhuman nature draws them to depression and suicide, which was a sobering thought.
Once fully healed and rested, they had to face a tiny army of man eating aurochs who were part of a herd just outside Drezen.  They won, easily, and Alfie took his team back into the castle - choosing the tower entrance rather than enter that gateway again.  The dragon flew up a knotted rope and it was an easy climb.  Once inside, Lex declared that she should be allowed three nights to sleep on all the treasure as payment for her work and that she should also be allowed to keep the tower.  Alfie promised her a new tower but she wanted that one.
I also realised that just as unintended evil actions pull someone toward evil, so should unintended good actions pull someone toward good, so since Lex was raised as a hatchling by Eliska and hasn't had much opportunity to do many evil things (other than take real sadistic pleasure in the kill as desecrating bodies can hardly be a sin to a carrion eater), I'm shifting her toward neutral.  She'll still have evil urges but they've been weakened by the wardstone.  She still thinks of herself quite proudly as Chaotic Evil, though.  I doubt she could ever become good.  She wouldn't see the point.
Anyway, they found the succubus who self-charms herself so that she can look like a charmed victim and swashbuckler tied to a bunk and chose to keep her in manacles but release her from the bunk and temporarily suppress the charm spell using Protection from Evil.  She trailed after them up until they defeated Joran's babau guards and were attacked by Staunton Vhane himself who rode in on his wasp (10 foot high ceilings, remember) and threatened to kill Joran for his weakness.
On the second turn, just before she would have attacked, she was approached by Harri with a clearly helpful look on his face as he reached out to cast Dispel Evil on her to help against the charm....  She failed her Spellcraft roll and thought he was about to release her from the manacles.  Instead she abruptly failed her save and was banished to the pit.  Surprise all round but it significantly prevented this battle from becoming a slaughter.
The next surprise was that after Staunton Vhane struck Lex for some crippling blows, he then failed his roll against Joran's suggestion to drop his weapon and flee the castle.  Lex and Alfie followed him, striking him in the back for two rounds before he came to his senses and attacked them in turn (as his previous command became obviously fatal).  The others focused on the two fiendish minotaurs but, proving how much weaker they were at combat than Lex and Alfie, they still needed those two characters help to end the battle.
Finally they all retired to Staunton Vhane's room to regroup, catch their breath and read Staunton's diary.  In desperation, Joran has thrown his lot in with them and renounced his god, Droskar, for failing to provide him with any real benefits.  And that's where I've left these daring heroes ... with Lex curled up on the bed, Alfie reading, Harri on guard, Joran moping on the edge of the bed, and Eliska reading over Alfie's shoulder but wishing she could just drink some dwarven ale and head to bed.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Wrath of the Righteous: Sword of Valor: Part A and B

The game proceeded well with Captain Irabeth explaining that the impressive actions undertaken by Alfie would likely draw Queen Galfrey's attention when she inevitably marched her armies into Kenabres.  He then spent the next week helping repair fortifications (largely by moving rubble) while Lex used her amulet of change shape to appear as a small child and Eliska established a small temple to her god not far from the Shelyn Temple's ragtag establishment. 

Eliska invited a few Shelyn acolytes (who had recently arrived from Vigil which is only a few days march away in my version of the game) to lurk in her temple so that those who came to make dark pacts with Zon Kuthon could be turned back to the light.  Meanwhile her allied Nidalese engineers (Expert 1, Rogue 2) turned their efforts to digging survivors out of the rubble with a precision and dedication that led some to wonder if they were truly Pharasmins instead.

Still the racial intolerance of the city reared its head and there continued to be mutterings about Alfie's success, some finding even that as a sign of some deeper demonic scheme.

When Queen Galfrey arrived, she immediately summoned Alfie to her side and requested that he lead a small army of paladins to lay siege on Drezen, believed to be weakened by the redistribution of demonic forces following the fall of that first wardstone.  He accepted the mission, nominating Commander Irabeth to lead the army.  He also sought out Eliska and Lex to join him - with Eliska came her 17 followers.  The Mongrelfolk also were willing to send fifteen forth to re-take Drezen (seeing it as connected to their history) led by Lann.  Finally the tiefling rogues he'd turned to Kenabres' aid saw it as an opportunity for greater distinction -- and failing that, plenty of loot.  They were led by Michael Rapscallion.

Basically his efforts and the plot so far meant he got a Tiny Level 2 Army ACR 1/2 that turned out to be quite handy in the battles ahead.

Due to a string of exceptionally lucky rolls, he kerb stomped the various armies with no casualties.  Funnily enough, his ragtag army (called the Rosethorn Army) kept gaining tactics and morale while the official paladin army (called Heirs to the Wardstone) gained no additional morale or tactics.  Sometimes the Rosethorns wiped out the opposing army during the ambush before the Heirs could even react - a good justification for why their morale wasn't as high.  They were being outdone by ragtag rogues!

The temple encounter worked a charm and was a nice break from the marching army tale.  So was the demoralised ex-paladin.  He even picked up on the shadowblood addiction though he didn't see *spoiler warning* Nurah do it.  He started running Lex and Eliska during combat as well and quite enjoyed using all three to great effect.

The swarm queen was more of a risk as it was CR 9 with several swarms for support so I had the Kuthites (expert level focused on alchemy and engineering) jury-rig a fancy alchemical bomb out of chemicals they had brought with them.  The bomb was terribly unstable, necessitating the characters use some of their previously acquired potions of invisibility to not set off a swarm early, but it dealt 8d6 Cold Damage in a 30-foot radius.  As Lex the Umbral Dragon is immune to cold damage, she was nominated to drop it off.  The swarms were wiped out and the chief queen was damaged but not too severely, allowing for a tight battle before the other swarms arrived (rolled a 7 on a 1d8).

Finally he arrived at Drezen shortly before nightfall and made camp.  he was immediately set upon by the ghoul army.  He managed to wipe them out before they could retreat.  At this stage I started creating mini-boss battles at the end of each army encounter to show what Alfie, Lex and Eliska were doing.  The only one that truly threatened him was the Vrock, Pozlixt.

The final encounter involving the watchtowers would normally be a party only affair but since he had a small army of rogues that could be split into three conveniently similarly sized groups (as he had added on an additional five tieflings - 2 from a conquered army, 3 were among 5 prisoners in the temple that I had added to the adventure; various high Diplomacy checks had made all but one of them friendly), he could have them attack the three other watchtowers.

I determined what the enemies would be rated as in terms of 4-monster armies and calculated the attackers as level 2 rogue / level 1 expert 15-person squads.  Since two of the groups managed their stealth check to catch their opponents unawares, they won without casualty.  The Kuthites failed and were attacked in turn, losing 2 of their individuals but managing to win through in the end.

Alfie had a significant battle ahead since Eliska couldn't climb the watchtower and had to be left behind.  She still had a part to play, though, because at one point Alfie took so much damage he turned invisible to hide from the bad guys and left it all up to Lex - who got damaged and had to fly down for healing from her (via inflict potions) before coming back up to finish the job.

Once the main party were down and healed up, I unleashed the Mythic chimera onto them.  Realising that he was a non-mythic Level 6 three-person (er, creature) party with only one level worth of bard / rogue abilities on top and they were going to be up against a CR 9 chimera with three Mythic tiers, I did some fancy thinking and realised that the Kuthite expert level in Rosethorn Army had an engineering focus.  I mean, heck, Rosethorn had their own siege weapon!

So naturally I allowed the four watchtowers (as some of them had crossed to the one Alfie had cleared) to make a hit with their standard catapults.  Three hit and did an impressive amount of damage.  Fortunately I forgot the creature's Mythic Initiative (i.e. two turns per turn) the first time around, which I later justified as it toying with them, and then had it play right.  It dealt loads of damage to them all, focusing on Lex to begin with but then wishing to keep the dragon as a toy for later, it attacked Alfie with both heads (dropping him to negative hit points) and then flying off with him.

It took him to the Eyrie, put him in manacles, and left him there as a trophy with the reasoning that he would slowly bleed to death while his armies fought in vain to get to him.  He stabilised, regained hit points through natural healing enough to wake up after a day, slipped his manacles, and used one of the +2 magical beast bane arrows with the +1 flaming longbow to coup de grace the sleeping mythic chimera (after making a stealth check).  The coup de grace just managed to kill it with but a couple points of damage to spare leaving Alfie in its treasure lair.

He quickly looted the place and upon hearing the sounds of battle outside, he climbed out onto the edge of Fort Drezen and started making his way back to them.  At this point, the player took control of the armies under the guidance of their two commanders (Rosethorn is commanded by Eliska due to her higher Charisma), and led the way to victory with another smashing success!  Damnable high rolls took down the other armies with ease.

And there ends Part A and Part B of this lovely adventure.  Next up ... some downtime and then Part C.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Wrath of the Righteous: The Worldwound Incursion: Part C

So "Alfy" went out of Defender's Heart to track down the lost child only to find a sinuous reptilian creature munching on some dead cultists over the rubble of the Shelyn Temple.  It was small and I described it piecemeal as he stealth-circled around behind it and the fact that it was an Umbral Dragon meant I could focus on a few details (fine scales, paler belly) that one doesn't normally associate with dragons.  I blew the surprise later on by calling it a dragon, however....  *sigh*

Anyway, the dragon took flight the moment it noticed him and tried to goad him into digging his "master" out of the rubble for an epic fight.  A Natural 20 on a Sense Motive check ensured Alfy saw through the ruse.  The dragon didn't think it likely that he would attack her Master at all but wasn't being honest with him because a) it liked stirring trouble, and b) it was racist enough to assume that he lacked the focus and wherewithal to dig someone of the rubble if there wasn't something to fight under it.

So Alfy dug up the rubble and opened up a stairway into the Shelyn Temple's root cellar where a few dozen suspicious citizens were holed up with the Kuthites of the earlier adventure.  They weren't certain the Kuthites who had warned them of the demonic attacks weren't part of it but had taken shelter nonetheless from the first explosion.  They also weren't sure that Alfy hadn't dug them up to eat them - being a tiefling - and so threatened him with makeshift weapons for a bit.  All the real clerics and paladins of Shelyn had remained outside to help people so these were just congregants.

Alfy met his Master, the lead Kuthite who introduced herself as Eliska Zaitherin, an oracle of Zon Kuthon.  He offered to lead the congregants back to the safety but wouldn't take Eliska or her followers since the Chaotic Evil dragon kinda put her on his "Avoid" list.

When he finally set off to deal with the Gray Bastion of Part 3, he initially used a scale to pretend to be another tiefling cultist called Faxon.  After all, he was a single PC and a sixteen-year-old youth in the campaign so it would be illogical for Irabeth to actually send him in to try to take the bastion on his own. 

Unfortunately, the two demons by the front gate recognised him and attacked.  It was a tough fight but he was soon joined by none other than the small dragon (whom he'd glimpsed darting past through the night skies) and soon after that Eliska joined in with a glowing dire flail.  The three formed a truce and continued onward after Eliska revealed that she had been following him.

Eliska is an oracle with the same bonus feats, high stats, etc. that Alfy possessed.  She wasn't a GMPC and therefore her actions and dialogue are edited to ensure that the solo PC gets to make all of the major decisions and steal all of the thunder.  Since she was a dhampyr oracle, she wasn't particularly powerful and had little combat capability beyond her dire flail which bypassed damage reduction.  She certainly wasn't built for melee combat though I did justify Weapon Proficiency: Dire Flail as a feat that mysteriously awoke within her when she had found it among the rubble (it was a long sword at the time).

The dire flail was the sword of Radiance - which I had mistakenly thought he'd picked up in Part 2, declared stolen from Defender's Heart and which later turned out to be hidden in Part 3.  Since he finds it's actual physicality in the Gray Bastion, I made the dire flail she carried the spiritual reflection of Radiance.  While Radiance isn't meant to work for anyone who isn't a paladin, it was too cool to simply discard as a plot line, my solo PC is a monk and I liked Irabeth as a commander rather than a companion.

Eliska isn't great with it so it certainly doesn't draw the spotlight from the player and simply provides flavour for her.  As a worshipper of Doubral, the god who had been Zon Kuthon before his corruption, she takes the weapons' transformation into a dire flail rather than either a spiked chain (Zon Kuthon's favoured weapon) or the simple longsword (suggesting her god doesn't exist), fills her with hope.  The fact that she could wield the weapon at all is what made Alfy realise she must be good.

This entire book went beautifully well with the monk, oracle and wyrmling Umbral Dragon getting through the encounters with just enough difficulty.  Some of the battles against the regular tieflings were so out-classed that I let my solo player auto-defeat them with narrative description.  He took all of the humans and tieflings prisoner at the bastion, except for those tieflings who were gambling for severed fingers.  He took exception to those and killed them.  Naturally neither Eliska nor the Umbral Dragon, Lex, could deal subdual but they didn't deal enough damage to kill anyone outright and hung back when he dealt with the CR 1/2 encounters so that didn't become a problem.

At the very end, my solo player was amused to see the good energies suffuse the wyrmling and delighted in the idea of redeeming her.  With a lot of fanfare, my player joyously took apart the babaus with his temporary super powers with some support from Eliska and Lex.  Once that battle concluded, he returned to report on his success (minus Eliska and Lex who thought their involvement would draw undue suspicion) and then helped the priests until it was time for bed.

The Mythic Energies that suffused him also gave him the abilities and spells of a bard (i.e. bardic performance) and granted Eliska the sneak attack die and trapfinding of a rogue.  Lex didn't get anything material.  I'm basically going to treat it as her alignment becoming somewhat unchained from her body due to the saturation of good energies.  In other words, Lex will find it easier to become good.

Normally the energies from the wardstone are meant to grant actual Mythic tiers but I thought it might be a bit too potent so I went with increasing versatility (i.e. oodles of extra feats and additional class features) rather than outright power.

Alfy grabbed only a few of the actual Divine Points listed in this adventure book but plenty of his actions justified Divine Points later on - his wisdom in dealing with the Mongrelfolk, incapacitating rather than killing his foes, setting up a fallback point in the sewers, ferrying survivors back to the fallback point, treating everyone well despite their suspicions (justified considering the number of evil tieflings here), and redeeming a pack of tiefling thugs into rescuing survivors. 

Alfy also encouraged Eliska to clean and consecrate the zombie-filled room (which would need to be re-consecrated later), took all of the notes from one room back to Irabeth at the end, and took out the alchemist which were all worth Divine Points in the book.  I also gave him one for dealing with the Wardstone fragment quite cleverly ... he feigned being Faxon in that final room long enough to press the rod of cancellation against the fragment.

In the end, he gained the full benefit of those Divine Points (as did Eliska and Lex).  In my campaign, I'm treating the Divine Points as coming from Shelyn rather than Iomedae as I want Shelyn to be a bigger focus for this campaign.  After all, my solo PC picked her as his patron diety!

**Adventure Book Review**
Loved it!  It was an absolute smash.  I loved the little NPC roleplaying hints in certain rooms.  I loved the descriptions.  I loved some of the combats.  It was a great start to an awesome campaign!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Wrath of the Righteous: Solo Worldwound Incursion

The tiefling "Alfie" is doing well so far.  Due to his very high AC most creatures can't hit him without rolling an 18 or above and that combined with his maximised hit die means that he's survived every encounter with only Anevia providing occasional arrows (i.e. not for every encounter) for support.  He started at level 3 and hit level 4 shortly before reaching the surface.  I'd given him full XP for each creature he'd killed alone, half if Anevia was involved, and a quarter of all story bonuses.

He also gained *a lot* of loot which he's determined to give to the Crusaders or the Shelyn Temple, whichever he finds first, as he can't use most of it - being a monk!

There were a few combats that got a bit dicey but nothing he couldn't handle.  I started hand waving some of the critters once he hit the surface because they couldn't do much to him.  I only used the interesting encounters listed and didn't bother with wandering monsters except to harry him by appearing and disappearing - making him paranoid that they would follow him to the shelter.

One interesting choice he made was to use subdual against every humanoid target, taking the time to deliver them down to the Mongrelfolk waiting in the sewers, and even grabbing some manacles from the nearby Southern Gate Tower (I reasoned there would be cells and manacles there) so that they could be better captured.  He didn't end up killing a single humanoid, which was pretty neat.

I chose to have the gods notice him from this point onward to give him a chance at accruing divine points from this moment.  He still won't be able to go over 10 but why not reward for *good* choices.  Especially since my choice to move Lastwall into Mendev means that he has a massive viable prison they can be returned to afterwards.

I also inserted a number of folks to save and took inspiration from the book on tieflings.  Basically there's this picture of a Chelish Hellknight wrapped in ropes and hounded by tieflings while another tiefling toys with his removed helmet.  I didn't want to just include tieflings cultists, after all, and so had them be ordinary thugs who'd reasoned that they were dead anyway regardless of whether the crusaders win (likely round up and genocide) or the demons (butchering or conscripting).  Since the demons couldn't tell a tiefling cultist from a random tiefling, they were able to walk around unmolested more readily than most.

"Alfie" talked them into releasing the Hellknight and even understood their reasoning - the Hellknight comes from Cheliax and Cheliax worships devils and why is that okay?  Though it turned out this particular Hellknight worshipped Iomedae (or at least said as much).  Using good reasoning and some Diplomacy checks, Alfie even convinced them to start rounding up innocent civilians and taking them to the mongrelfolk.  Once they released the Hellknight, he assumed command and oddly enough the tieflings followed (trio were Lawful Neutral devilbloods who would have been perfectly obedient lawabiding citizens if they hadn't been rejected by authority). 

Alfie heard the tieflings grumbling that they'd better get a medal for this otherwise they should cause havoc and leave once this mess gets mopped up.  So later when he found the half-orc paladin in charge, he made certain to mention them and recommend them for a medal.

Alfie also talked the rogues in the alchemy store into helping protect the safe place with the mongrelfolk - they weren't willing to risk their lives but were happy to find a safer spot with their loot and the 100gp each he promised them.  After all, they'd barely looted as much thus far.

He also saved a young girl from a random encounter I created who had basically hidden in her parent's home.  He spotted her glancing out at them and went in for her.  She hid behind a chair and held her dolly out at him menacingly but he managed to get her to come with him by talking her into sipping some holy water to prove she wasn't possessed - and more importantly to prove he wasn't a demon to do the same.

Anyway since he only took a day in the sewer, after he reached the safe place I gave him a few days to scout around the city looking for survivors and let him roll a 1d20 each morning and afternoon and declared that he located and saved that many survivors.  I thought it was a nice touch to help him feel all the more heroic and like he was doing something.  He ended up saving 82 additional people.

Haven't done the last part of the adventure but I can say that so far the creatures have been relatively weak.  Yes, he is a potent character but economy of actions should balance that out a bit.  I would just recommend that other GMs keep an eye on how their party progresses and if it starts becoming too easy they should simply maximise the occasional hit die here and there or boost their strength by 2 to give them a +1 to attack and damage which should make it smooth out without wildly swinging it in the other direction.

I will have the current half-orc captain of the crusaders (whose name I have currently forgotten) send Alfie into a side adventure where he must track down the missing child.  Since I want to play around with a potential redeeming Zon-Kuthon meta-plot (that may involve a couple campaigns to complete with different solo characters), this child is a shapeshifted humanoid-friendly Chaotic Evil wyrmling Umber Dragon. 

In other words, just like a workable Chaotic Evil party member, it attacks its enemies with a sadistic glee and is willing (and eager!) to use nasty techniques but has an otherwise good goal of helping close the worldwound (because killing demons is fun!) and a single good guiding principle (hurting the right people is important).  It has a neck collar that allows it to change its shape into that of an elf of the same approximate age but which punishes it for doing the wrong thing by giving it a blast of guilt that dazes it.  This has been affixed by the Nidalese bard who had hired Alfie to take them to this city in the first place.

The child spent time among the crusaders but quickly grew bored (and hungry!) and has decided to roam the city looking for undead and her bardic master.

Once Alfie has found the child I'll lead him into Part 4 by stating that the people in the base are wary of him and are growing suspicious that he might be working against them.  One of these agitators is actually a demon that can feign being human and does so to rile up the masses and cause divisions.  He'll discover that later when he actually marches with them in the 2nd book.

The most important part of this write up, however, is that I need a name for this wyrmling dragon and Nidalese bardic master.  Any ideas?  The bard is a Lawful Neutral aasimar wishing to become good.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Wrath of the Righteous - Solo Pathfinder Game

It's amazing what you can do with a solo campaign.  Basically I got the itch to run a game and have been eyeing off this adventure path for quite some time.  My husband is always present and available and one of our big hobbies involves running things for each other so I figured: "Why not?"

He created a Tiefling Monk called "Alfie" and was given a set of Base 14 stats where he could increase a stat by reducing another one by one.  And yes, it was a one for one basis so the cost of going from 17 to 18 was the same as to go down from 13 to 12.

I also gave him maximised hit dice (so that he had a full 8hp on a d8, or whatever it is that monk's get - I forget), three additional starting feats (though they couldn't all be pre-requisites for each other, no early stage chaining) and three traits. 

I also let him roll thrice on the tiefling special ability chart to replace his Darkness spell-like ability and even let him roll again when one of those abilities didn't make any sense.  He's meant to be a Good Tiefling, so cannibalism for hit points wouldn't work out for this type of campaign.  He personally chose to swap out his sorcery bloodline benefit for a mobile tail.

I even gave him a free Sin Rune - Rune of Resistance - and he was allowed to take it for one of his existing Resistance 5s and Acid Resistance.  This was connected to his backstory whereby he was used for some terrible ritual before being rescued at an early age and dropped off in Vigil (which I transplanted to Mendev for my own needs).

Other than that his equipment was selected by me and was all pretty ordinary.  Other than a Ring of Protection + 1 it was all very mundane.  Monks don't need elaborate weapons and armour anyway.

Finally I gave him an extra 2 skill points per level.

Oh, and he started at level 3.

So why did I do all of this?  Well, he has to play the role of four Player Characters for while there are allies included in this particular game, sometimes he'll be on his own.  I could just make him higher level, but I didn't want his saves / base attack / AC to wildly overwhelm the opposition so I made him smarter, harder to kill, with better stats and a slight boost in level at the beginning (later he'll probably only sit 1 level higher than the suggested CR).  So yeah, versatility over pointiness.

We're partway through the first Part of the first Book and it's working out well so far.  It's also a hoot as the NPCs are really well detailed and there's points in various rooms where they respond and react to things and it's all laid out on the page for me to follow (or branch off from where I need to).

I started him in my moved area of Vigil as I wanted him to have a stable base of operations and he got to have a rather ordinary time interrupted only by the arrival of some Nidalese Kuthites wanting to join the Crusade (or so they say) who did odd things like dropping in on the Shelyn Temple to pay their respects and who were hiring on a guide to Kenares (which is an easy three day ride away across a well-travelled and protected road).

"Alfie" was an orphan raised by the Temple of Shelyn whose destructive impulses have been channelled into martial arts training (since he can't quite do a monk-like aspect as he's too ADHD).  Other than being a real food glutton and a bundle of energy, he's a good kid as one of the chief clerics to Shelyn has managed to position him as an example of the redemptive qualities of goodness, so he gets given special treatment that does tend to irritate tieflings' with a rougher history.

Anyway, been loads of fun so far.  Just thought I'd share on the character creation changes.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Rooting Fantasy Characters In The Mundane

One of the troubles with the Pathfinder / D&D method of creating classes is that people generally define their characters by that class.  This makes sense since as a player it's helpful to know what niches are taken and what powers are available.  It also makes sense that those categories would be available colloquially since people of particular classes function in effectively different ways within the game universe as well.

However that's not to say that you can't further define your character by what they spent their time doing before they took up adventuring.  Sure, they might have been adventuring since Level 1 or since being a commoner, and sometimes that may be perfectly fine, but there are other options even if the game itself will be a dungeon delve.

What if you were a merchant caravan guard?  Or a chronicler who writes the last day's activities next to your spell book?  What if you are an archaeologist (hence Engineering, Dungeoneering and History) who picks up spells from carvings on the walls (ask your GM to let you aesthetically flavour your auto-spell-known-per-level from this)?  Or maybe you were a pirate and lament being stuck in this place now?

And that's not even touching upon the jobs you might have had prior to being an adventurer.  Technically you could gain levels from any regular task, it just takes longer.  So perhaps the bard was a satirist whose satires got them chased out of town?  Or that rogue could actually have worked with law enforcement to get the dirt on the bad guys?  Or acted as a security specialist?

Was your barbarian a generally mild-mannered bouncer at an up-market establishment who chased off the unfortunate?  Or even just a blacksmith with a military history and one hell of a temper?  Your ranger could have bred horses back in the day or couriered messages across the land.

Even if you're a cleric whose task kind of connects with your class quite well, you could have a variety of different positions within the church: proselytizer, medic, almsman, protector of relics, administrator, or jack-of-all-trades as the solitary priest at the local church.  Do you have a preferred title other than cleric?  Are you a Father, Mother, Divine, Kezar, Whatzit?

I've found an easy way to develop your character and give them a bit more flavour be to give them an occupation in their history.  It doesn't need to be complicated.  It doesn't even need to come up much.  It just helps give off that feeling that your character existed and has a place in the world.  It also makes them more identifiable as we don't think of ourselves as Scientist, we think of ourselves as that health inspector that takes water samples from air conditioning units and examines shops for pests.

What are your thoughts?  Do you do this yourself?