Monday, April 30, 2012

15: Running a Caving Survival Horror, Part 2.

And how did the grand finale go? What was the build up? And how to recapture the sense of last sessions' momentum? Well, that two week downtime period certainly helped keep it present in their minds as they got to enjoy the claustrophobic sense of pain and misery. When they came back to the table, they had their equipment in front of them, as before, and had to spart making a plan for how they would assault the Earthbound lair.

There were arguments but, in the end, they chose to take along the ex-Earthbound thrall Zephrox saved, rather than Olga (because Olga wouldn't help them if she came along but the thrall offered to point out the trabs). This turned out to be rather lucky as someone had let slip their goal to trap, rather than banish, Nechoshel and Olga wouldn't be able to rest until Nechoshel was back in the pit. If she'd been present, she would've tried to slay the urn bearer.

Ahh, players, you can never remember to keep a secret, can you?

So they headed in through a gap in the corridor wall and ended up in a corridor lined with zombies infused into doors that couldn't reach down the last few feet below them, and a rug across the floor (that hid a spiked pit trap). Of course, they started crawling across it, but not before the thrall warned them about the trap, and Anaphriel enhanced the rugs so that they were tough enough not to fray and drop them below. Then they crawled across it. One of the Cryers appeared and threw knives at them, but Zephrox threw a seed and made it sprout into a grappling tangle of vines, that someone set fire to so that was fine.

They used their flashbang and stinger to disorient the hostage keeping brawler knight and, while he made all his checks to not be blinded, it did confuse him enough that he didn't set fire to the toxic wood piled up around that would have gassed them unconscious. They took him down nonlethally (god knows how, but they did) and released the hostage and sent him back to wait with Olga.

Then they headed down another corridor, took out the armoured knight by using Activate on the straps to unbuckle them, and then shooting him into aggravated damage (that Barzel healed) and taking him hostage. They also realised there was a devil trapped in the sword (Nakreem) but left it there for now after he burned the one that picked him up.

They were tricked by the possessed statue and it slowly eroded their health, but they destroyed it, only to face the possessed Mage and, seeing him struggle against her presence, managed to damage her enough through him that she retreated. They then healed him and rushed off (he started turning to stone, like any good post-possession victim does but it would take hours so they didn't realise it at first) to fight the Earthbound's visage, and then blast apart where her knife was buried so they could attack the knife itself. Through luck, acid, and some good rolls, they destroyed her reliquary and captured her essence.

They then gathered up all the survivors, including the unconscious guys, and escaped through a doorway in the back of this room that led through a looooong corridor (miles long) to a church in the center of town (they'd previously come this way with their vampires in an earlier game). Oh, they also rescued the sword (they did need to pay off the Luciferans by bringing out a Luciferan, after all).

Discovering that the Mage was turning to stone, they asked Gipontel for another way and were so desperate to save him that I, as ST, took pity on them and gave them an option (though a nasty one). Someone else had to bear the curse, which could be transferred, but not ended. Zahaviel took it upon himself, and Gipontel prepared another host for him (a woken corpse) and one for Nakreem. Zahaviel had to slowly turn to stone, too, rather than take an easier death, for the transferred curse had to run its course or not be stopped at all.

And there you have it! One Caving Survival Horror complete!

If you'd like to read prior articles on this campaign, you can find them here.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Player Tip: Know Yourself.

Can you answer me these riddles three?

Do you know what you like, I mean really like, in a roleplaying game? It can be really tricky to pinpoint just what it is that a person enjoys and, of course, it's best not to be too rigid about it. I've had a man who declared himself a proud power gamer who was only after better statistics and never cared much about roleplay, throw himself into a World of Darkness game that, admittedly had plenty of action, but also had plenty of character-defining moments, investigations, and strange horrors to flee. Also, what are the little bits and pieces that you tend to enjoy in a game. Equipment management, commerce, gang warfare, territory expansion, having a real impact on your local community, getting to betray others, working against the other PCs, complex interplay between morally ambiguous courses of actions, morally simply fun and frivolity, lively taverns. Anything really.

Hell, if you're not TOO sure, then it's just as good (some might say better) to just make a point to tell the GM which parts you enjoyed the most. It works like classical conditioning and you're bound to see more like it.

Do you know what your trigger points are for irritation or anger, for better or worse, in house rules, NPCs, and plots? Your trigger points could involve things you don't want to involve in any game, perhaps homophobia or misogyny or child abuse, or it could involve things that you like to attribute to enemies because it'll really get you fired out and keen to kill the villains. My fiance hates hypocrisy, especially self-entitled hypocrisy, and he respects more honest villains, so if I want to push his buttons with a villain, I just make them proudly hypocritical and thinking they're doing the right thing. If I want him to think they're cool, or even admire them, often just having the villain admit to his villainy helps settle him down (obviously it matters what the villain's doing).

Do you know what you enjoy spending the session doing? This one is vital. There's nothing so irritating as a GM then when a player is really not enjoying the game because of a poor choice of character. When the confirmed action hero plays a socialite who hates getting their hands dirty and then gripes that the game is dull. Or when the player, all fired up about an investigative game due to their interest in crime scene investigation, plays a lazy cop always eager to turn a blind eye and then complains they feel unmotivated.

Repeat after me: My character is a protagonist and my lens into the game.

As any good novelist or screen writer will tell you, you shouldn't make your protagonist in a vacuum, or else no matter how much you love the genre, you may well trample all over it. Consider the game, the game world, and what you want to spend your time doing, and then select a character based around that.

Knowing yourself, what you want, what you enjoy, and what you dislike is vital so you can communicate that to the Game Master. Otherwise, don't complain if the game seems to be developing in ways you really don't enjoy.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Flashpoint Session 3

I'm going to do it a little differently today and just put up my notes with a few details about what the characters ended up doing where it matters.

Captain Juliana Stockwin sends Lieutenant Archer to help Midshipman Wellard, and the other officers, with ordering everyone about before turning to each person to find out what they can do. She informs him that a few of the Halflings are experienced carpenters and are to be put to work as such.

- Lieutenant Archer must make a successful Profession (Sailor) roll at DC 15 to do everything in the right order and a Perform (Oratory) roll at DC 10 to explain it all correctly. He has three tries to do both correctly (have him roll two differently coloured dice).

She knows of Proteus Antonio’s reputation, and has heard only good things about him. Since his clothing isn’t fit for a storm, she sends him to see the purser, Mr. Cudlip, about a proper uniform and if there is nothing in the slop chest then he is to grant Proteus one of his private supply. She will pay gladly once they reach port.

Proteus didn't hear her correctly and, when Mr. Cudlip informed him that the slop chest was indeed empty, and asked if he were to be allowed access to the private stash, he lied about the truth and said 'yes'.

- Proteus can make a performance check to aid Archer’s roll, an Acrobatics roll to take up the position of a topslman who hit the deck during the storm, and he briefly meets Keelan (half-elf), a Profession (Sailor) roll to help the carpenters re-settle the mast and tie the upper rigging, and he can make a Perform (Oratory) roll to assist the others in doing it as well.

Since Proteus isn't a great climber or acrobat, he blanched a bit about going up to the topmast in the storm but did as he was told, singing sea shanties to quell his sea sickness. He didn't learn Keelan's name just yet but did learn that the half-elf liked to grin wildly and seemed a bit crazy mad. Archer knew that Keelan just liked to mess with the new guys.

Captain Stockwin then turns to Lenny and asks if she's got any experience. Lenny has been on a river boat a few times, that's about all, so she's sent to work the bilge pumps to keep the ship from going under and, when needed, help hoist up the new topmast. Too many grating experiences have left the ship leaking, let alone the water that’s come in through the deckboards when the waves spatter the deck.

- Lenny must do three Constitution checks (DC 10) to work at the bilge pumps and has up to three Strength checks (DC 10) to hoist the mast.

Captain Juliana sends two marines to take Hallik to shut him in her sea trunk and then to escort Arexia and Mellarius aft to wait with the non-carpenter Halflings in the crowded wardroom. She will attempt to do the same thing with Lunjun unless he argues (he didn't). She then turns to give Lhye a hard look, then shrugs and shakes her head, before asking what he can do.

She covers her misgivings about him being a tiefling (from Cheliax, no doubt) by stating that her insistence is that he is a familiar and therefore can obviously do something. He admits to being able to cast Mending and so she sends him (with Midshipman Wellard as an escort and advisor) into the orlop deck and below into the bilge to check for leaks. Come to think of it, she should've sent a marine rather than a midshipman, but oh well, hindsight is always 20 / 20.

- Three Perception checks to notice all of the leaks.

Once the storm returns in proper, Midshipman Wellard leaves him under marine guard in the captain’s room and comes back out on deck. During this time, Lhye opens the sea chest, seduces Hallik whom he loves, and the two have a party on the captain's hammock. At least Lhye has the presence of mind to keep Hallik's wrists cuffed. The spell wears off on Lhye's end, leaving him embittered and vengeful about the whole drugging-and-attempted-enslavement, but rather than stopping he makes a point of keeping Hallik on the cusp so that when the potion's effects cease on Hallik, he's least likely to throw him aside. Funnily enough, Hallik doesn't, though is obviously deeply ashamed afterwards of rutting with a tiefling!

After the whole event, Lhye demands Hallik acknowledge him as a superior being, taunts him a bit, then uses Prestidigitation to help clean them both up, and Hallik puts himself back into the sea chest to re-think his life. Ah, to be a proud Chelish who's bedded a tiefling. True, many of them do it, but not all of them think they would.

Lhye is pretty curious about why Hallik would publicly kiss him in a restaurant, even if there were few people there, and assumes that Hallik was in a lot of trouble with the slavers and desperate to get them some slaves.

Once they leave the dock, the storm begins in earnest once more and everyone must roll an Acrobatics check or lose their action (requiring a Reflex Save DC 10 or take 1d4 subdual damage due to falls or more severe knocks). They who succeed on their Acrobatics check may make an additional one to save a fellow sailor from going over the edge with a touch attack (Keelan rescues Proteus in this way on the topmast; Archer rolls a 1 and is nearly swept through the scuppers but makes a Reflex save to stay onboard).

There’s a 10% chance every half hour that someone would be swept off or take a fatal fall. There’s about four hours of this before, finally, it disappears. (In the end, this felt like too many rolls so I left it).

They have until morning to make all haste away from Cheliax but through the drizzle Keelan sees a ship coming up fast. There’s something off about it and soon they realise that the grisly ship has a twitching water witch stapled to the bow, only with her hands free and casting Control Winds, and that it’s flying the dread flag of Nidal. Since even the figureheard is of vastly higher level than them, Captain Juliana concocts a plan.

Captain Juliana takes Proteus and Lieutenant Archer aside and entrusts them with vital papers that must go to the Admiral-Consul in Augustana and a strange and obscure relic that must go to the temple of Shelyn in the same city. Archer tries to convince her that she should leave with such documents but she rejects the idea because she hasn't given up on her ship yet. Whether they manage to escape or not was largely determined by how many successes they got earlier.

Publicly, she states that she wishes to ensure the prisoner, Hallik, and refugees get to safety (offering a substantial reward for those who get Hallik into custody). Then she bundles up all of the civilians on the ship's boat, and instructs them to paddle away in the thick, gloomy rain, while she attempts to draw the Nidal ship after them on a merry chase.

Underwater Escape
Unfortunately, the Nidal ship heads towards them and looms out of the rain before them. Aquatic elves rise up to grip the edge of the boat and offer to help them in Aquan. One is a druid of another race who grants water breathing and endure elements to all and leads them deep underwater through a small stone archway that Lhye and Lunjun interprets must be a fabled Elf Gate. They come out in the water not far from the shore of another island.

Limestone crags called sea stacks project above the sea, bright blue lizards the size of a dog sun themselves on the stone, a peregrine falcon hunts overhead, and goat tracks can be seen on the sand. The shrubs and trees on the island tend to have small leaves with a thick waxy layer and most of the rest of the flora includes mastic tree, myrtle, arbutus, heather, cypresses and the occasional oak tree with many herbs such as basil, with medium sized green leaves, marjoram, oregano, with small dark green leaves, parsley, and thyme.

Proteus identifies it as Piccola Island, that is about 20 or so miles off the coast of eastern Cheliax, which is protected by a witch of some description. He slays a couple lizards for lunch (which Lhye cooks) and Lenny lassoos one so it's now on a leash. Wellard does a Harrow reading (Proteus admires her deck, as does Lhye, but neither are allowed to touch it) that is mostly rather airy fluff, except for the final three cards in the negative side.

The Idiot. The Sickness. The Lost.

She claims that these represent Hallik's kidnapping, the sickness and death that follows him (perhaps the Nidal's ship or his own corruption) and that a fate worse than death awaits him, especially if he (or they) stray off the path though it may possibly be that nothing can save him.

Due to this, Proteus offers to look after Hallik and with Archer's assistance, claims that he's freed Hallik, but Hallik looks rather dubious at the prospect of freedom so when Archer states that he could always surrender, promise not to try to escape, and be covered by the Articles of War, Hallik accepts.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

WoD To Do With Ordo Dracul, Part 3

Well, first we looked at Ordo Dracul moods, themes, and plot hooks and Ordo Dracul goals, motivations, and daily activities. They're an interesting bunch and I've already spoken at length about how I'd love to run an entirely Ordo Dracul game. Oh, the mysteries! Oh, the cantankerous libraries! Oh, the strange and obscure quests to send the players on that may mean nothing or everything! Oh, the wyrm's nests and the crucibles and the esoteric studies and the pseudoscientific laboratories and the attempts to understand that which should really be left alone. Ahh, I do love them.

Five Evocative Locations:

The Haunted Nightclub: It was once a bustling and decadent art deco nightclub but when mobsters kicked down the door and slew several innocent bystanders in a hail of gunfire intended for a single mafioso, the nightclub's decadence became infused with a malice that appeals to kindred blood. The place is still decadently set out, as it was built into the basement of a building with a set of stairs out that were simply demolished and bricked up, ripe for a kindred to re-open and re-open they have. Thus far, the spirits and ghosts within the nightclub have played along nicely with their wardens and experimenters, allowing this place to serve as both a crucible for the Coil of Souls as well as a meeting point, but how long before an Ordo Dracul foolishly decides to stir things up in the name of knowledge!

The Museum After Dark: This huge building is bustling during daylight hours but closes its doors shortly after dusk. A few staff stay on, investigating this or that in hushed cubicles, or examining numerous items that have no home in any exhibit, but they soon leave as well, giving the vampires plenty of time to enter and pore over stacks of old pottery in the Exhibit Room or go through the staff member's documents, all under the watchful eye of ghouled security guards. This is a place of privilege, and only the lucky few neonates get to browse this site with their betters.

The Psychiatric Hospital: Banish the thought of evil experimenters cackling behind sterile masks. This hospital is controlled by an Ordo Dracul with the best intentions. If human maladies can be cured, then why not kindred ones? If human resilience can be measured and increased, then why not a Ventrue's? There's no reason to torture your subjects for to do so would simply muddy the results. It's better to take in what society has rejected in this well-funded institution and see if the secrets of the human minds might be discovered. Of course, the few imprisoned kindred, fallen to Beast or to madness or blood addiction, might disagree about treating their co-patients benevolently, but surely they could never escape? Surely.

The Mansion: An iconic location with a modern twist. The elder who created this chapter house wishes to learn a new coil and thus must add flexibility to her mind. This place has up-to-date security, a sleep and modern design, linoleum, fluorescent lights, and computer banks. The whole place is a-thrum with modernity that makes even older neonates cringe in confusion and distaste.

The Manor House: An old-fashioned, semi-fortified building on the edge of town, with small, high windows, thick brick walls, and a timeless sensibility to it shown by its Georgian decor. This is a place with hidden passageways hidden behind bookcases and servants that all seem a little outside of this world. Every book has a leather cover, even the modern ones.

Five NPCs:

Seamus O'Baoill: An Irish born Gangrel kogaian who shuns the limelight, is reasonably friendly to neonates, fairly paranoid, and utterly interested in other people's business. Information is power to this man and he'll study or investigate anywhere angels fear to tread. This makes him very easy to motivate but the oddball ancillae has no understanding of modern technology (except for mobile phones, he finds them very handy) and prefers to ride his bicycle rather than drive anywhere.

Duchess Alicia Brown: A Daeva and so-called Invictus prized for her rescue of an Invictus Ancient in the London fire of 1666 due to her bravery and staunch resolve (and Coil of Beasts) she rose to a pre-eminent position with a life boon from an ancient and moved to a smaller, younger city where she could be in charge as prince. Unknown to the Ordo Dracul there, she plots out the design of a city according to geomantic principles and smooths over issues for the Ordo Dracul. Always a friend to them, yet none know her secret. When the Ordo Dracul became open once more, she had to remain an enigma, and now there is no one to back her claim.

Persephone Trent: The money bags of the Ordo Dracul, this older neonate is a brisk Mekhet who always likes to talk business and finance, with one hand on her blackberry and the other on her ear phone. There's rumor that she's a Lynx, or will become one, but there's no proof thus far. At the moment, she's free with her money when you're an Ordo Dracul, although there's an almost Carthian expectation attached that you will provide her assistance in turn.

The Doctor: A rather indifferent-seeming Nosferatu psychiatrist who has set up shop in a psychiatric hospital to torment the patients and test the results of his horrifying studies to drive them deeper into their madness. His indifference mixed with his general distaste combine to create a sardonic attitude that is very quotable.

Doctor Taylor: An excitable and chatty Ventrue fellow, yes, who's always interested in talking science, mm, whose experiments in the medical children's hospital are hush hush even to the Ordo Dracul as they're on the verge of creating a wound and if the information on the cult got out, well, everyone would be quite cross. He was once incredibly moral, that he was, but then he attempted an experiment with some mages using the unique ley line configuration of the city and a captured 'angel' to tame the beast once and for all and ascend. Instead, a bunch of serial killers started emerging and he, well, he effectively lost his conscience.

Portishead (any of their songs sound fitting as a backdrop)
Thomas Dolby – “She Blinded Me With Science”
They Might Be Giants – “Why Does the Sun Shine? (The Sun is a Mass of Incandescent Gas)”
Midnight Syndicate (good backdrop for some of the locations they explore)

Knowing your canon (where it applies)

Well, I totally spaced over the weekend and didn't give you your articles either on Saturday or Monday so I'm going to play catch up. This is a fairly simple tip, in truth. Is there's a canon behind your game? By canon, I mean a wider world that you can read about in player's companions or perhaps even your Game Master's weighty campaign guide (yes, some GM's will write up 200 page tomes). If you have one, read up on it. It'll help your roleplay if you like to get into your character's head space; it'll help you react sensibly and know which fun things to poke at if you like to explore; and it'll help you know what to expect of your enemies. Now, of course, I'm not suggesting you read the bestiary or other Enemy books but often there's hints and tidbits in the player's companions.

Obviously, in the World of Darkness this is incredibly important as joining the Invictus without any idea of being an Invictus, is likely to lead you bruised and raw from all the angry Invictus NPCs that you've been insulting. If you'd done some reading, you might've learned that you'd have more fun amongst the carefree Carthians.

However, it also helps in any other campaign. Golarion is a very richly detailed world in Pathfinder and while playing a Chelish freedom-loving abolitionist is certainly a fair and possible concept, it might be handy to know that your character would've had to work in secret.

Of course, there are, as always, a couple of exceptions. If your Storyteller wants to play a fledgling Embrace psychological and personal horror game, then not knowing what it means to be a vampire can only be a boon. On the other hand, if you're playing in the modern world in Call of Cthulhu or another horror again (say, World of Darkness) then you don't need to read any of the genre's fluff. Still, in both cases you can take a look at the real world canon. So long as you don't get haughty about background research in New York because you've read more than your Game Master, then your GM will be grateful to you.

Hmm, I just realised that I've never asked you guys for what tips you'd give other players. Any thoughts?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Pathfinder Settlement Sheet

Ooh! Look what I've found. This is a pretty nifty .pdf that gives us a really handy guide for those using the Settlement rules from Pathfinder. I am, because I want people to go "Wow, diplomacy checks are easy in Andoran, wow, they're hard in Nidal!" Flavoring the rolls really helps it get it into the player's heads how some things are easier in some cities than others. This way, I don't have to worry about losing the information!

101 Times a Dungeon Isn't A Dungeon, part 1.

Basically, here's a list of adventures that aren't quite the normal dungeon scenario but still involve the odd combat (or several) but a whole lot of other things. The best part? Most of these you can nut out in a couple sessions and then move on to the next real encounter providing lots of variety and interest.

So when is a dungeon not quite a dungeon? When it's a:

1. Ghost Ship (more haunts and investingation than fights).
2. Serial Killer's apartment (he'll be back soon).
3. Witch's cabin (just wait til the witch comes home).
4. Alchemist's lab (beware freeing the exhibits).
5. Degenerate, in-bred village (don't let them spot you).
6. Haunted house (more haunts and investingation than fights).
7. Prison (surviving being a prisoner).
8. Sanitorium (disease - something stalks there, pretending to be human, find it).
9. Asylum (mental health - still in active use and inmates aren't the ones to fear).
10. Cave (mostly natural hazards).
11. Castle (inhabited by actual nobility, servants, etc.)
12. Fort (inhabited by an opposing army).
13. Marketplace (caster hides in crowds and casts odd spells to weaken and take out PCs).
14. Deserted village (PCs do something that unleashes what killed them last time).
15. Deserted village (until nightfall, stay safe until dawn).
16. Tiny island (cleanse it of aberrations).
17. Lake (cleanse it of evil aquatic creatures).
18. Tiny island (eradicate the fungus that infects people and makes fungal zombies).
19. Graveyard (consecrated ground, keeps people safe, protect it from humanoid agents of evil).
20. Graveyard (find the grave robber and bring him to justice).
21. City Streets (fight and dodge the town guard during a hunt).
22. City Streets (get from point A to B during a gale that's dredged up dangers from the sewers).
23. City Streets (get from point A to B at night in a shadow beast place like Westcrown).
24. Warehouse (something got shipped in that's spawning monsters, find it, break it).
25. Field of grass (magical creature is stalking you).
26. Trial (captured PCs must survive three trials to be declared innocent of wrongdoing).
27. Ship (pirates attack).
28. Ship (capture the enemy messenger ship fleeing to a safe port).
29. Ship (bring down as many merchant vessels heading en masse as you can).
30. Ship (weather the storm).
31. Ship (survive the onslaught of marine monsters).
32. Ship (navigate the rocks).
33. Ship (get passed the siege weapons to sail up the mouth of a river).
34. Ship (break the embargo).
35. City Streets (Follow an enemy NPC and ambush them out of sight of the others).
36. City Streets (Figure out what an NPC is, get their bane, and attack them in their home).
37. City Mansion (Break in and assassinate a nobleman, evading or knocking out guards).
38. Temple (Help them test their temple's defences and deal with good summons, etc.).
39. Wizard Academy (Closeness to another plane has left all sorts of strange hazards).
40. Forrest (Bushfire, natural hazards).
41. Forrest / Plains (Flash flood, natural hazards).
42. Battlefield (two armies clash together, do they stand or fall?)
43. Siege (spot and take out stealthily fleeing messengers).
44. Siege (repel the invaders coming up the walls).
45. Siege (stealthily escape and return with food / reinforcements / magical items).
46. Dream (face one's own nightmare reality).
47. Anywhere (someone's been murdered! Who did it? Apprehend him at the end).
48. Town (something dreadful will be summoned soon. Who's doing it? How to stop them?).
49. City Streets (quell or start a riot).
50. Ruin (A small Indianna-style temple because the real threat is what the relic draws to it).

In part 2 I'll do the next 51. Stay tuned!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Lacking Dungeon Endurance?

Players and GMs are both interesting creatures, not least because what is exactly one person's cup of tea is another's cup of arsenic. Some people love dungeons where you roam from room to room, killing monsters, and they require very little reason to explore each room. Others grow bored by the 10th room, finding the whole thing rather dreary and repetitive and need much coaxing to get into the whole thing. You may well get both popping into the same game. Heck, the GM may be one thing, while the players are another.

I have to admit that I fall into the latter camp. I'm not big on dungeons. I don't care if it's a haunted house, a cave, or a sewer complex, if I have to trawl from room to room smacking baddies over several sessions then it's going to get old fast. You can extend my interest through a number of different ways so, in telling you about how you can wrangle dungeon play out of me, maybe I can tell you how to wrangle dungeon play out of your own players, or GM.

The Five Cardinal Rules.

Keep it Short. Does that castle really need us to explore ALL of its rooms? Wouldn't it be more interesting if we could somehow make a beeline to where we need to go? I mean, even in action movies they don't waste time with repetitive scenes in the same location. Instead, they vary up the location even if they don't vary up the pace or events. I mean, it's not like we can't do the castle this session, smack some gnolls as we head to a second castle next session, then deal with the other castle in the third session. Must we spend six sessions all in the one place?

Keep it Varied. A series of traps is about as boring as a series of monsters. Keep varying it up and don't make it all static set pieces. An ogre could knock down a column to bar our path (forcing us to Climb / Jump it later) before rushing out to get us. A trap could lead to a monster. A monster could accidentally set off a trap. The structure might start collapsing. A lightning spell could set off a hovering storm. A monster might surrender or barter for its escape, turning a physical challenge into a social one.

Keep me Guessing. Wait, what? This isn't a haunted house at all but a place at a connection to the Abyss whose energies are slowly warping the structure and everyone inside? Now you've got me! A castle dungeon where we also have to figure out who killed the king by going through old clues and interrogating the few living, friendly NPCs? Cool. Throw me a mystery and I'll doggedly explore.

Keep it Interesting. Make sure the rooms aren't ho-hum. Make me feel like I'm really exploring somewhere I'll never get to visit through fantastic room descriptions or, failing that, fabulous set piece locations. Give me places I'd like to explore and keep enough variation into those locations so that I don't think I've seen it all already.

Keep Accepting Me. Put me in a castle for six sessions and I'm going to try and talk to monsters. I'll use Charm spells if I have to. Waste scrolls. Try to trap one. Or I'll slow things down by chatting to PCs while we're sleeping, making sure we set watches, and trying to learn about their back stories. Accept it unless it's actively hurting your game (and by hurting it, I don't mean boring you). You can set time limits, say, 10 minutes of in-game chat every hour maximum. Put an hour glass on the table. That's fine. But don't try to remove it all or I'll grow fidgety and fidgety players are ... well. We don't really need to finish that answer, do we?

DISCLAIMER: I never advocate derailing someone else's game. I'm just pointing out here that I'd sneak in little actions to blow off steam. Its the same as an action hero in a largely political game sneaking out to the pub for a random punch up that leads to nothing more major than a few cuts and bruises. If it helps them cope with a game that's not much their thing, and doesn't disrupt the game, then good on them. Its worth accepting.

So there we go. Another article. This one inspired by a comment by Shimmin Beg. This should also cast further light onto the Ship-Based Campaign which I'll be varying it up every session and keeping up a constantly evolving pace (hopefully). No giant mega-dungeons there, I assure you.

Flashpoint Campaign: Session 2, Part 2

So the last we saw our intrepid adventurers, they were defeating a shadowgarm and heading to Mellarius' restaurant. Well, the group finally get there. It's still open as the storm hit all of a sudden and cast Westcrown in darkness before night fell, though there's not all that many customers in there (basically, just two others who soon decide to risk it and leave).

Mellarius is in the back room and agrees to see Lhye, congratulating him on finding Arexia, and soon hearing that there are pressgangs and a chance to flee with the Andoran ship. Mellarius tells him that the government has found reason to commandeer much of his property (he doesn't explain how or why) and that a trip to Andoran might be just what he needs right now. Lhye then asks for the various equipment required to repair the ship, consulting with Lieutenant Archer to find out just what was needed. Mellarius accepts the list of requested items and heads off to find some likely individuals on his own (and without fear) through the gale-struck streets of Westcrown.

The party were relieved to find that before he left he gave instructions to his restaurant staff to give them whatever they order and for free. They are also to cook up a variety of food for the guests to sample, which is unusual, because while they're used to seeing Lhye (and a few other tieflings), they normally come in the back way and eat in the back rooms with Mellarius, or, alternatively, eat in the main rooms after much of it is closed for the night.

A short while after he leaves a fellow comes into the room, escorted by a man with a continual flame shepherd's crook in his hands, who stands by the door. Lieutenant Archer later recognises him (as he spends awhile scrutinising him) as having the smell, demeanor, and edge of a tattoo that marks him as an Okeno slaver. Anyway, for now they're all unawares.

Proteus Antonia has just finished setting up the masterwork dominoes set he stole from the Okeno slavers, when this nobleman comes in and is keen to join in for a gamble. He introduces himself as Hallik Dromage (it was meant to be Drovenge, but I got it wrong, so I'm running with House Dromage now). Those with Know Nobility or the locals with Know Local recognise him as a minor noble from a prestigious family in Westcrown. Proteus invites Lhye over to play, which Hallik naturally scoffs at, but Proteus manages to convince him to allow it and Hallik wasn't so uncouth as to press the matter.

They game for awhile and despite Proteus not being the most intellectual figure at the table, he kept winning through sheer luck. Obviously, he had Desna's favour. Hallik, on the other hand, had terrible luck. Still, Hallik wasn't to be deterred and he ordered drink after drink after drink (mostly fortified wines). This drew Lieutenant Archer's interest (though he was glad his oilskin covered up his clothing) and also gave the Andoran a plan. What if they kidnapped Hallik as a hostage?

Unaware of this, Hallik proceeded to get them drunk before drinking from his hip flask (a potion that removed the effects of alcohol using a spell called Polypurpose Panacea). Proteus, seeing this though not knowing what was in the potion, asked to drink of it and Hallik swapped flasks (only Lieutenant Archer noticed this), saying it was merely juice (and it was).

They gamed on further and Proteus grew quite drunk. Lhye was doing better. So Hallik offered Lhye a drink from a flash (yet another one) but Lhye sensibly declined. Hallik used Beguiling Gift (hidden through his Bardic Performance using a special feat) to get Lhye to drink the potion of love. Lhye failed his save and grew infatuated with Hallik. Lhye, of course, being a dirty tiefling and worshipper of Calistria, responds with a Charm Person as he's already quite bisexual and doesn't mind wanting to take it further. Hallik needed to get at Proteus' drink (as Proteus had started rejecting drinks and Archer had paid off the bartenders to give him and Lhye watered down booze) so he kissed Lhye (in public, no less!) and used the distraction to pour a potion of Delusional Pride in his drink.

He had intended to take the charmed Lhye and convince the newly prideful Proteus to go with him through the darkened streets of Westcrown but Lieutenant Archer had spotted the move and, telling Lenny to go take out the Okeno slaver (she killed him), he hurried forward and grabbed Hallik's wrist, slamming his hand on the table. He demanded that Hallik drink his own spiked drink and forced it down Hallik's throat.

Hallik failed the save and, in his delusional pride, started telling the Andoran (he'd pegged him as Andoran by his accent) about all the trouble he'd be in for laying hands on a Dromage and how important his family is. Lhye wanted to stop them from hurting Hallik, so he casts Sleep, but only Hallik fails his save and falls unconscious.

Realising what's happened to him as Lhye's mother is Lavender Lil who used love potions all the time in her younger years, when they put the masterwork manacles on Hallik, Lhye finds another love potion (this one in a love heart shaped bottle) and pours the contents down Hallik's throat, slapping him lightly to waken him.

Aww, love at first sight!

So Mellarius returns, doesn't much care what they've done, and Archer bribes the restaurant staff to secrecy (or so he hopes). Then they march him through the streets of Westcrown, manacled from ankle to wrist, wearing an oilskin to cover the manacles, not that there's anyone there to see it. They head back to the Imperial docks just as the eye of the hurricane passes over and there's the wagon with what they need, undamaged despite the storm that must've raged all around it (how bizarre and unnatural a storm). The Imperial gate has been torn down and the stations are deserted. The folk came despite the storm because Mellarius, knowing he technically owns nothing anymore, lied about his fortunes and bought it all at great cost with goods he'll no longer have come morning.

They reach their ship and find its weathered the storm better than a few of the others that have battered themselves badly against their moorings and Captain Julianna Stockwin helps up the landlubbers in the purser's chair, brings up the equipment, and congratulates Lieutenant Archer on a job well done. The halfling slaves returned with Midshipman Wellard and only the other three able seamen are still missing.

And thus we ended the session.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Editable Old Newspaper

You can find a cool site for editable old newspapers over here. Now I know what I'm going to spend the next few weeks doing. Or maybe not, the Pathfinder folks aren't quite in a city just yet.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


I've gotten rid of forcing you to sign in and verify who you are to post any comments. It gets pretty quiet around here and even spam might liven up the place! I figure it might help get the odd lurker to say something as, at the moment, all I've got to gauge the popularity of certain articles are the blog stats but that only tells me about which were the most looked at - not which were the most interesting.

By the way, if there are any series that you'd like to see, or any articles that you really enjoyed and would like to see more of, here's a good place to mention it. I'll keep posting regardless but if you want to see more of the same, or something completely different, it always works best to mention it.

For example, I could always switch out WoD To Do with a Call of Cthulhu focused system, or Perfect Pathfinder series of articles, or what-not. Those are the only games I've played / ran with any degree of regularity, though, so if your interests are further afield, you'd be better off suggesting a genre or style.

WoD To Do With Ordo Dracul, Part 2

All right, well, we've gone through Themes, Moods and Plot Hooks in the first installment so it's time to look at the next stage. And yes, the image to the left is from a Vampire: the Masquerade game. Ain't my fault nobody's published a Requiem videogame. Of course, if you're a Vampire: the Masquerade fan then you could probably use a lot of these details for any Tremere games you've chosen to run. Those pesky Tremere were the super-secretive, occult types of Masquerade, after all. Anywho, on to the meat of the article.

Daily Activities:

1. Putting the Ordo Dracul library books into some sort of order (massive task).

2. Cleaning the test laboratory for your mentor.

3. Purchasing a variety of odds and ends for your mentor from a list that requires you to range far and wide - from bat feces from the local zoo to salt petre to hair from a Nosferatu's head. You won't even know if it's for a real experiment or just make work until you're done.

4. Attending various human group meetings, from ghost hunters to alleged psychics to other paranormal groups to keep an eye on them, find likely human candidates to assist the Ordo Dracul and to learn more about the local area.

5. Attend various night classes to try and catch up on studies you slept through as a human. Hey, it's cheaper than a boon where it's possible.

6. Learn to do something entirely different, or change your demeanor, or raise / lower your Humanity suddenly, to try and jolt your Coil learning progress. Perhaps you work hard on becoming a Goth and getting in with the crowd and then switch to being a techno-junkie, despite being an older neonate or young ancillae and therefore having to deal with snide attitudes and your own difficulties with adapting.

7. Live out your unlife in and around the area of a wyrm's nest that you've been instructed to defend. Find food near it, find human distractions near it, study it, and, of course, find a suitable haven near it.

8. Attend auctions, used book stores, and garage sales in the search for anything interesting that you can present to the Chapter House.

9. Trawl pubs, taverns, and other public venues around places of interests to subtly pick up information from the locals about the place by pretending to be an author.

10. Performing night security work at museums or other such institutions to get a quick buck and maintain Ordo Dracul access to the sites.

Goals / Motivations:

1. Seduce a professor or other eminent specialist in your particular field into being your ghoul. Voila! Instant teacher of the mundane arts that you can also put to work for yourself.

2. Catch the eye of an important mentor in the right group of Sworn by first learning about their likes / dislikes and interests, then ensuring that you accomplish a series of tasks related to their interests off your own back. This might involve learning how to play the violin ... or clearing out a haunting with nothing but your coterie at your back.

3. Use your coterie as some sort of experiment, perhaps by encouraging a coterie-mate to stay close to their human family (interesting social / psychological experiment) or by encouraging the Nosferatu to play around with ghosts to see what exactly can make a haunt so haunted.

4. Groom a friend or two in rival covenants to help provide yourself some better protection and with an eye to being an obvious candidate for the Sworn of Mysteries. After all, if you've already managed to juggle several 'friends' in multiple covenants without betraying the Ordo Dracul, you'd be perfect for them.

5. Obtain enough boons on someone (or ghoul someone) who has mastered a fighting style so that you can force them to teach you how to master that same fighting style.

6. Retain a high Humanity within the Ordo Dracul, get yourself the Confessor position, and start to provide ethical guidance to the Ordo Dracul (likely under the auspices of practical considerations).

7. Cause a Sworn of Mysteries nemesis to be torpored and then awoken by a well-meaning kindred of another covenant, thus ensuring the Sworn's death as they are now one step blood bound and thus must die.

8. Spy on the other kindred, not for political information, but to learn as much as can be learned about suspected bloodlines and the limits and extents of the powers of certain disciplines.

9. Gain ground on your Great Work so that you can make a magnificent presentation at the next big caucus. (Players and Storytellers so often forget their Great Work but a lot of cool plot can come out of this.)

10. Ensure the Ordo Dracul's layer of secrecy is maintained by removing known informants, Dominating information out of people, disseminating false information, and using every tool at your disposal to undermine the research efforts made by other covenants.

Man, writing this up just makes me want to run (or play) in an Ordo Dracul specific campaign. There's so much you can do with this covenant, though it does get a bit limited with other covenants involved as some of the cool stuff is top secret with secret sauce on it.

Next up are Locations, NPCs, and Playlists.

Monday, April 16, 2012

14: Downtimes in a Caving Survival Horror

So the players got to spend time during the two weeks chatting, arguing, trying to get each other into trouble with their boss (Gipontel), sharing food, deciding what to do with the prisoner, learning more about the prisoner, and other such things for about 7 pages worth of forum posting. This meant that during the sessions we had more free time for the actual event-based stuff while still allowing plenty of room for roleplay and character development.

It also gave me a chance to resolve a few waves of zombies and expend some of the huge amount of ammunition they had without wasting time rolling heaps and heaps of dice at the game table. In other words, it was certainly a worthwhile addition to the game. The only trouble was that one player really doesn't do forum play but he was content to have his character be quiet and sit in the corner and wasn't annoyed that he couldn't partake as he's a bit more of an Action Hero-style player (though he does love his character development, he prefers to do it live and in reaction to interesting things rather than sitting around a cold cave).

If you'd like to read prior articles on this campaign, you can find them here.

14: Summary for the Caving Survival Horror

Between the two sessions of the caving adventure, I transferred the action back over to the forums and to make sure that everyone was on the same page since Kevin had to leave the first session early, I did up a big summary. I thought I may as well include it here.

So, without further ado, here it is:

So, after crawling, walking, hiking, and climbing through the tunnels beneath Nairne toward Mount Barker, the interpid seven heroes ended up facing their greatest confrontation. A series of three narrow, semi-submerged passages that opened up into higher ground each time. A fight ensued when Seperel refused to journey into the water, causing a hysterical Barzel to verbally abused him until Seperel clipped him in the chin. A small scuffle ensued ... though luckily they aimed to hurt and not to wound so no more healing was wasted. They were finally broken up by Zephrox and Anaphriel. Due to Zahaviel's clever thinking, Barzel went and used his lores to evoke an oxytocin / endorphin / dopamine mix onto Seperel so that he was dopey and compliant.

This became a problem because, while they could easily lead him into the water, the third passageway was wider at the bottom and there were two zombies dragging themselves along the floor. No one saw this until Barzel's legs were shredded and Zephrox sustained a scrape along a calve muscle. They struggled onward. Zephrox slammed a seed into the wall and tried to make it grow, but in his haste and fear, his Torment overwhelmed his Lore, causing it to begin growing with thorns and other dangerous implements. Barzel was attacked again, his calve muscle punctured by steel embedded in the zombie's finger tips, and he fell beneath the water line. Anaphriel picked him up, carried him over her shoulder, suffering strikes all the time. Even when one of her legs was ring barked with the blades, she managed to move onwards, struggling to lift Barzel onto the dry, vertical rise, but getting him up there in the end before succumbing to her wounds.

Luckily, Barzel had brought on his True Form and his natural healing kicked in. He reached into the water, ducking his head three feet under, hanging from his waist, and he grabbed her and with a tremendous effort of will, dragged the drowning soldier up and onto dry land.

Meanwhile, Olga, Zaphrox, Zahaviel, Harbinger, and Jhoriel had all climbed out of the water and were poised above the water line, their backs and knees pressed against the edges. Zephrox struggled through the water and got out, followed by Zaphrox and Harbinger, but Jhoriel, Olga and Zahaviel were all on the opposite side of the weeds.

Olga managed to climb high enough up the slope to get around them, as did Jhoriel, but Zahaviel found it difficult to move, perhaps because of his bung knee and the awkward cane. He had revealed his true form and was a burning figure, ensconsed in flame, which the newly pyrophobic Zephrox found truly terrifying. With one touch, if Zahaviel fell into him or any other, they would be set alight to burn and die! So, already horrified by the sight of his beloved plant powers tainted for this was the first time Torment had overcome his power, he purposefully sent a tainted lore to control the plant and try to grapple the inflamed Zahaviel to keep him away.

Zahaviel slashed at the weeds and managed to cross the cleft, causing the pryophobic Zephrox to turn and spring away. Zaphrox followed his brother, but was soon left behind lost in the tunnels and not knowing which way Zephrox had gone.

Zephrox made it into a widened, boulbous dead end tunnel where he saw a figure surrounded by a whipping coat, with a bright light upon 'his' forehead. Zephrox raised his axe and menaced the 'man', telling 'him' to fuck off, and 'he' dug into the Earth instantaneously, and he rushed over to the spot, dropping his axe and pulling the Fate-Tie-Splitting-Dagger and the Compass-That-Sees-Fate-Ties. He couldn't locate the ties, but the sound of Earth roiling behind him made him turn, only to find his wrist clasped in the 'man's' hand as the coat whipped around them.

The two struggled for the dagger, and Zephrox activated the compass, revealing the thick, viscuous thread that roped from the back of 'his' head and through another wall. They kept struggling for the knife, even as Zahaviel invoked them, hearing only grunts from Zephrox but being told by Zaphrox that he'd lost them.

Barzel healed the remainder with his powers, though causing a few more derangements as he went as his Torment kept overwhelming his powers. The lingering effects of which were being maintained by the maddening moans and groans of the Dead that move through the tunnels around them. They collected themselves and hobbled, too few fully healed, down the tunnels, following the boot prints. They reconnected with Zaphrox, who had back tracked, and kept going.

Zephrox gained control of the knife and split the tie that bound the thrall to 'his' Earthbound master, and 'he' jolted as the power left 'him'. As Zephrox held the now ex-thrall in his arms, just as the others came around the corner. Fearing that Zephrox was still in combat with a thrall or a zombie, seeing only the two of them locked together in the middle of the room side-on, Anaphriel fired off an instinctive shot that bored through 'his' shoulder and out the other side, spattering Zephrox with a bit of blood. Zahaviel came rushing up and slashed her back with his sword and the sword bit deep. Lieutenant Harbinger, unsure of the situation, and coming low enough in the Initiative tree that he couldn't be sure, held his fire. Barzel and Jhoriel, too, held his fire. Seperel was too dopey to be upset or get involved and Zaphrox didn't have a chance to shoot.

Which is lucky, because to see the ex-thrall die in his arms, so close to finally proving the whole enterprise, would've broken Zephrox. Even now, he throws the thrall over his shoulder (realising its actually a woman) and tries to bolt but is confronted by the others. He snaps, angered by how they always shoot first, and worse, how eager they always are to have their swords and bullets bite deep into human flesh. So he chews them out before finally relenting to let Jhoriel tend to their wounds.

Zephrox is a pacifist toward humanity. He sees the Earthbound thralls as being no different to the humans liberated and saved from the Ebon and Silver Legions during the Long March. He can barely bring himself to grapple with a human, let alone injure them, so closely does he identify with his angelic self whose sole purpose, truly, in the end, was to love Humanity and help protect them, even while overseeing his space of wilderness.

Of course, all of that anger, all of that need to be a staunch defender of someone, all that Iron backbone, comes to nought when Seperel steps forward and silently offers the hip flask of brandy that Anaphriel had given to him. His big-eyed look of utter adorableness is very disarming and Zephrox looks at him, considers a verbal assault, but no one can resist the disarming nature of Seperel's generally meek sweetness. So instead he takes a swig from the flask and things calm down.


Now the heroes have a chance to rest up, a bare 200 yards from the Dead Space that Zephrox sensed with his Wilderness Sense (Dead Space suggests an artificial construction absent any real wild life). Somewhere in that Dead Space are two enthralled and lobotomised Knights and the Earthbound herself. The two 'Cryers' (or Super-Zombies) have also not been confronted yet.

But for now they are in a large cul-de-sac, about 32 feet in diameter and 15 feet high. The corridor that enters into it is 5 feet wide on a slightly upward slope and they can see down about 18 feet of that corridor. They need to rest up until dawn, at the very least, so that Barzel and Seperel can regain all of their Faith so that their final wounds can be healed. It'd be really easy to watch that one corridor. There are no other tunnels in close proximity to this cul de sac.

A few minutes of rest reveal to them how hungry, thirsty, and sweaty they are. They're also all aching and sore from the various scrapes they gained from the rough dirt and rock, let alone their injuries, and eight hours of climbing, crawling, squeezing, walking, is enough to give their entire bodies are work out. They all feel the need to sleep pressing deeply upon them. Fatigue is starting to set in and their sheer exhaustion of marching is enough to make everyone who has Stamina 2 take a -2 fatigue penalty. Those with Stamina 3 will take a -1 penalty. One more hour of this, or ten more minutes of fighting, would grant a -1 penalty to those with Stamina 4 and a cumulative -1 fatigue penalty to everyone else. A 2 hour nap will be enough to remove this penalty (at least for the two hours following).

Or Barzel can remove the fatigue toxins ... at a risk of tormenting his Lore.

Anaphriel is strongly against taking a nap or sleep and will do her utmost to ensure no one does - at least for the first hour. After that is up to the player.

Of course, those who may have nightmares will likely have it aggravated if they sleep (a roll every half hour). Everyone else will have a chance to have a nightmare (a single roll). And the ground will be pretty damn uncomfortable to sleep on, though there's a couple patches that aren't too bad.

There's only forty five minutes until dawn. In eight hours time, it would be midday, which is when Zephrox and Zaphrox would have their batteries revitalised. If they decide to wait that long, they could certainly take shifts to sleep with plenty of people to watch that entrance. There's also enough space for people to have quiet conversations without being heard automatically. The cul-de-sac muffles noises, which allows the derangements to clear up on their own without the constant aggravation from the moaning voices of the dead.

So you can all also have private conversations though simply clarify here that you're grouping up with people.

Any conversations or major acts you would like to do can be spoken of here. This will count as an RtR for additional XP (potentially up to 3). You can eat (if you've got food), share food, share water, nap, take a watch, or otherwise organise yourselves. You can push to move on or to wait. And yes, Zahaviel, you have most certainly got enough opportunity to spend five minutes giving a rousing speech. At this stage it'd be most worth-while.

You can read prior articles over here.

Pathfinder Ship Building History

Well, I've been researching heaps into the nautical world so I figured I should create a bit of a history of ship building in the Pathfinder world. My plan is to have Andoran technology be greater than the major empires to partially justify how they've managed to do so well. Plus, they are allying with those gunsmithing dwarves in the Mana Wastes after all so their minds are open to technology over magic (technology is a great leveler, magic requires study and knack).

So, here goes it. Here's the expanded timeline and here's the engineering timeline:

Age of Enthronement
For much of their time as members of the Taldan Empire, Andoran built mainly two kinds of ships for the Taldan Empire. Longships (reliant on oarsmen and used as warships though lacked room for adequate provisions) and roundships (used sails, carried freight, held more provisions, very slow, though able to weather storms better). Towards the end of the empires' rule of Andoran, cogs were invented in Taldor (supposedly) and became widely used.
4081 AR: Taldan Empire ceded Andoran to Cheliax.
4100 AR: Andoran built caravels, which were designed by a Taldan shipwright in Augustana, led to safer and more regular travel across the Inner Seas and up to the Varisian coast line as well as strengthened trade routes.
4197 AR: Carracks are designed by a Chelish shipwright and the technology soon spreads to Taldor and its other colonies. Initially, carracks have a 200 ton capacity.
4200 AR: Besides coastal exploration, Andoran ships also made trips further out to gather meteorological and oceanographic information and meet with ships further afield. The Taldan Empire benefits from this information. Small colonies are also settled on far flung continents though many ships are lost en route unless powerful casters are there to help guide them through it. Carracks have reached a size of up to 2,000 tons.
4450 AR: The galleon was invented and designed by an Absalom shipwright who sold the designs far and wide. This remained the mainstay of the various naval and merchant ships as they didn't really have a need for anything of better build due to a preference for those who wanted impeccable ships to rely on magic or enchantments and for others to simply accept the galleon as the pinnacle of ship building.
4600 AR: King Cullaim II founds the Eagle Knights.

Age of Lost Omens
4606 AR - Aroden dies.
4640 AR - Rise of the Thrune Ascendancy in Cheliax.
4669 AR - Andoran declares independence from Cheliax in the People's Revolt. Cheliax begins 20-year embargo of Andoran. This motivates the Andorans to seek out new methods of ship building and started designing full-rigged ships with the use of a full jib-boom, three masts, extension of the lower and main masts with a topmast and topgallant mast to increase the number of sails, use of staysails, experimentation in hull designs, and improved rigging designs.
4689 AR - Chelish embargo of Andoran ends with the sinking of three Chelish warships outside Westcrown, including the flagship of the Chelish navy.
4690 AR - Years of lobbying by representatives of the Andoran druids about the dwindling forrests finally catch attention and laws are laid down for reforrestation and tithes of land and other necessities to the druids in exchange for their assistance with growing farm-forrests. This has led to certain animals in certain areas being considered taboo to eat - though this depends on the local government infrastructure's willingness to take druidic wisdom on board. There is still firm distrust between the loggers and the druids.
4691 AR - Korvosa splits off from Cheliax after the Queen Illeosa debacle with the new druidic Queen Callistri.
4692 AR - 4697 AR - Andoran starts seeking ties of alliance within further flung countries such as the Mana Wastes. Due to these connections and the long journeys involved, they made several breakthroughs in the fields of mathematics, cartography and naval technology.
4698 AR - Andoran starts importing gunpowder and guns and pay dearly for exclusive rights (as an external country) to the technology.
4699 AR - Andoran starts building canons on its own and plans to equip naval ships with them though they are kept thus far hidden. Privateers and pirates are not granted access to them. A standing Navy is drawn up (with increased costs) in order to ensure loyalty that certainly can't be gained with a pressgang.
4704 AR - Preparations are completed. Andoran creates a treaty with Riddleport and representatives of other major Varisian personas in case of war. Korvosa (we played Crimson Throne and now its run by a druidic queen in open defiance of Cheliax) sign a peace treaty but not an alliance in event of war.
1 Calistril 4704 AR - Cheliax begins pressganging their own citizens in various countries in preparation of war. This is the first day of the campaign.

Want to learn more about the Andoran? Check here for the Pathfinder wiki.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Flashpoint: Slaver's Market

Well, last we saw our intrepid heroes they were poised in two different laneways that lead into a slaver's courtyard. Rickety wooden stand alone rooftops protect the cobblestones from much of the rain, though plenty of water worms its way through holes and gaps, or sheets down off the sides. Thunder cracks audibly overhead and flashes of light snake across the dark clouds. The wind rattles across the roof boards but the courtyard is more sheltered here so they don't have to be worried about being checked by the gale. Across the courtyard itself they can see two women sitting around some sort of game set up on a table in front of a row of crates, two high, four across, each one would come up to a person's waist. They can be clearly seen as they have a common lantern on the table and a bull's-eye lantern on the lip of one of the crate's behind them.

Everyone can also clearly hear the sounds of one man cry out that he's more valuable to them alive than dead and that he's on the verge of drowning (the wizard PC). Turns out that the back row of crates was placed on a walkway three feet below the rest of the courtyard that actually functions as a bit of a levee for the canal behind it. The currently overflowing canal. As the crates are only four feet high or so, he's feeling the danger.

So I had the two pairs of players roll Initiative and the first off the rank was Lhye and Lenny. The Mercenery simply drew her weapons and strode over to them with a menacing look in her eye that left them shaken (intimidate) and the two women stood and prepared themselves though didn't attack - assuming she simply had a bone to pick with them. The Tiefling held back and readied his crossbow.

Then the other pair of PCs set off. Lieutenant Archer crept around the edge of the light, beyond the sheet of rain coming down off the rooftop, until he was about level with the crates, then he stealthily crept forwards until he was out of the rain and within twenty feet of one of the slavers. Midshipman Wellard stepped into position beside him, cutlass at the ready (as an Expert, she's not the deftest fighter). Proteus Antonia crept in slightly closer as well, stepping behind the Lieutenant and quietly mumbling a few encouraging phrases (Bardic Performance) while he prepared to cast his Summon Monster I (Fire Beetles) spell.

Then everything happened at once. The Barbarian charged and swung her sword, slashing a slaver who deftly moved aside, taking the hit and tripping her to the ground in one sweep of the feet (Flowing Monk Archetype, free trip or reposition attempt when struck). Lieutenant Archer fired his pistol and shot the 2nd slaver in the side. The Tiefling fired his crossbow and struck the 2nd slaver as well who fell down dead. The Fire Beetle was summoned behind the 1st slaver, and she stumbled into it, but managed to avoid its snapping mouth.

The 1st slaver picked up the common lantern and poured the oil onto Lenny as she struggled to get up, threatening to slam the lantern against her and set her alight if she rose up. "Strike me and she burns!" The others held their attacks, though in truth only one of them knew the Lenny, but the Lenny was not to be delayed. She rose up regardless, and the lantern bounced against her, shattering, but the flame went out in the gusts of wind, and she cut the 1st slaver down.

As the Barbarian looted the area, gathering up Masterwork weapons (I had cards for these, like bolas, whip, lassoo) while the Lhye grabbed up the keys and started trying to free the slaves. Most of the crates held halflings (7 in all). One held a human Tianese wizard (fifth PC) called Sive Lunjun (last name Siva) and the other held Arexia, the now mute Elven slave. No one bothered introducing themselves just yet, so intent were they on either looting or rescuing the slaves.

Once all the loot had been taken and all of the slaves freed, Lieutenant Archer turned to Midshipman Wellard and commanded her to return to the ship with all of the halfling slaves (realising that Arexia was connected to Lhye and the wizard, Siva, could handle himself, though he made them the offer to return with her). He then requested the assistance of the group (after introducing himself as an Andoren) to help gather needed supplies for his ship.

Lhye, seeing an opportunity to get the hell out of Cheliax now that he had Arexia, and hoping to return to Riddleport at some point but knowing that he had a lot of debt and so the Hellknights and other instruments of bureaucracy would never let him legally leave, offered to take him to a merchant friend of his called Mellarius.

Lhye turned to Lenny and said, "Well, we'd better get out of here and when I say here, I mean out of the city."

Lieutenant Archer offered Lenny free drinks for her assistance in taking down the slavers, which Lenny happily accepted, and this may have been a large part of her motivation for going with them to Mellarius' restaurant.

Proteus Antonia seemed eager to continue to assist the Andorens (though he generally moved freely from port to port on different ships, perhaps he wished to avoid the pressgang?) and Siva Lunjun was now a freed slave and thus had plenty of reason to wish to help the Andorens get away from Cheliax. And so they set off through the darkened streets, attacked by a cowardly Shadowgarm that would squeeze into cellars through broken windows or through cracked sewer grates, and then lash out at them as they passed. It struck home twice before someone spotted it and used a bullseye lantern (magically conjured) to slow it down while the others rained down blows upon it.

Seeing its threat, and having to drag Lhye at one point because he was checked by the heavy gale blowing down a main thoroughfare, meant they were more than relieved to stumble in through the heavy front doors of Mellarius' restaurant.

This was a longer than usual session so I'll break it up for now and finish up the post later.

Ship Campaign's First Session - Lieutenant / Bard Prelude

The Andoren ship XXX limps into port, battered and bruised from the storm, missing two anchors and their topmost spars. Normally they would steer clear of the leeward shore but, unfortunately, without their anchors they were going to be battered against the shoreline anyway so they were better off making for a hasty dock to seek out repairs.

Unfortunately, while there's a current peace treaty between the Andorens and the Chelish, the ship is equipped with top secret canon equipment, carries top secret documentation, and is actually originally a Chelish vessel captured by Andoren privateers and sold to the government. So they're currently flying the flag of Taldor and taking advantage of the storm (which is blowing itself up to a hurricane) for the cover it provides but knowing they must be ready to clear the docks before too long as there'll be no escaping the Chelish once they're ready.

So the 2nd Lieutenant, Lieutenant Balthazar Archer, was sent out with three sailor NPCs and the NPC Midshipman Vera Wellard (whose hair was chopped rough at her shoulders to give her a more masculine appearance to track down and beg, borrow, or steal the requisite equipment to repair their ship and find a way to bring it back to the ship. As they get down to the dock itself, they soon realise that they have accidentally docked in the Imperial Marina, and thus their situation grows more dire, though the heavy winds and driving rain and darkness has kept any of the few guards from noticing them.

One of the sailors remembers some kind of tavern where you can buy all sorts of things, the Sally Port or something? And they set off, only to soon become hopelessly lost down the winding alleys as it's hard to see one side of the street from the other and thus keep their heads. They have a single lantern to guide their way and none are locals. One of the sailors lagged behind and there's a terrible yowling sound before he's dragged off into the night, his screams roughly silenced by some mysterious threat, leaving them to move onward. They soon notice a gang of Hellknight Armigers with Chelish sailors heading into a tavern and then coming out with a whole bunch of locals. The pressgang is out in force tonight which means war is in the air once more.

Three of the Armigers notice them and they sprint down an alley. The lieutenant is afraid to fire his gun as the noise might make the Chelish realise that the Andorens are here though if he can time it with thunder he should be all right. The alley is walled off with a threadbare rope hanging down the bricks but the various sailors shimmy up the pitted bricks and fling themselves down, leaving Wellard to mount the rope as the lieutenant covers their retreat before coming up behind her.

They spot two giant cockroaches and a swarm of roaches mingling in the trash below, sheltering from the flooded sewers, water-logged roads, and wind roughened passageways, as they're nicely wind broke here and riding high on a lot of trash and debris. The other two sailors crawl sideways along the rain slick walls, past a door to some tavern, and drop down on the other side into the darkness. Lieutenant Archer has lost his lantern now and both and he and Wellard fail to duplicate their acts and drop down onto a crate by the wall. They try again and again but fail to make their way. Lieutenant Archer threatens one giant roach that attempts to clamber up using his cutlass, only to fumble and drop it.

The door to the tavern opens as the Undine sailor, Proteus Antonia, has heard the ruckus on his way to take a piss in the alley and he sees the mass of roaches and the imperilled two likely looking chaps (Wellard does look like a boy with her hair chopped like that) who both have their uniforms covered in their oilskins. Proteus Antonia starts calling out helpful tips (Perform Oratory) to keep their spirits up and tosses the tavern's lantern into the alley, setting fire to the roaches and keeping them distracted. Finally the two manage to crawl sidelong across the wall to the safety of the doorway. In fact, Lieutenant Archer finally gets his head together and gets across with such skill he even manages to recollect his cutlass, surprising himself as much as anyone else.

The two head in through the rear door and Wellard tries to distract the Proteus Antonia (she thinks he might be some sort of tiefling, do they come in blue?) through mention of the pressgang. Unfortunately, she's so earnest in her telling of it that she seems to be bald-faced lying. Still, as Proteus leads them through the tavern he announces loudly to all and sundry about the pressgang and they flee the tavern, leaving Proteus to down their drinks on his slow way out.

Outside, however, he sees the pressgang hurry to chase those who are trying to flee them and says quickly, "I'll be damned. There is a pressgang!" Then he follows the other two as they try to make their way allong to the Sally Port, the other two sailors nowhere in sight. Eventually, they all get lost (though at least the Undine's darkvision means they can see what's in front of them) until they reach an opening into a wider courtyard that has a few wall-less timber roofs set up on creaking posts. The Slave Markets.

The session ended there.

Ship Campaign's First Session - Tiefling / Mercenary Prelude

I need a better name for my campaign (running with Flashpoint campaign for now). Any ideas? I can't really call it the 'pirate' campaign as they're not pirates just yet and might end up privateers or even naval officers (who knows?) so I can't hamstring myself with what may be a false label. Anywho, so we began in Westcrown on a storm-battered night. I made the players each roll Initiative to determine who would be the first off the prelude rank and it turned out to be the tiefling.

The tiefling, in theory at this stage a simple Expert, is closing up the alchemy shop for the night in readiness to go to the Sally Horse floating tavern which is set up in an old ship not far from the Imperial Marina. The bartender there has set him up with a mercenary because the tiefling, Lhye, has recently heard that Arexia, the Elven daughter of an important cleric of Calistria back in Riddleport (the tiefling was partially raised by the Calistrian clergy), was back in the city with the Okeno slavers that had taken her. She was due to be sold with the rest of their cargo.

So Lhye sets off in the thick of a storm that has water rushing the streets and winds howling through the sky and his head starts to ache. He sees a local stray cat yowling and twisting and writhing across the cobblestones and it stops to lay at his feet. He goes to pat it and it wraps around his arm, claws and teeth sinking in, just as lightning tears through the sky (to him, it's almost like sutured smiles stitched across the storm clouds). The tiefling was always a little crazy so the odd metaphors that slam through his mind (the wind's howls sound like blessed screams, the thunder like the beating of the drums) don't seem so odd. He is pretty annoyed by the cat, though is soon distracted when lightning slams into the roof tiles nearby. As he hurries off, he starts to feel a static charge all about him and he tosses down his metal cane which is soon struck thrice by lightning, yet is strangely cool when he picks it up again.

The barbarian, Lenny, arrives at the Sally Horse tavern, which is bucking at her ropes, despite its relatively sheltered position on the River ..... Still, she heads inside the rickety death trap and purchases some rum in the dim interior (the bartender is justifiably pyrophobic during storms and sets up a simple pair of Light spells focused on the antler horns of an elk's head.

Finally Lhye reaches the Sally Horse and barely manages to gain the deck via the gangplank that's nailed down between deck and dock and that drums the cobbles against the length of its partially pulled free nails. A random tiefling on deck snickers at him but he ignores him and heads inside to the bartender who points out the mercenary. The two discuss prices and the tiefling offers Lenny a masterwork ivory horn musical instrument worth around 100gp.

Just so you know, the horn wasn't out of the player's loot, obviously, but was an additional item I allowed him to have to justify her coming into the game. Loot is loot no matter where it comes from.

Anywho, so despite the storm (or rather, because of it, as it meant the guards were likely staying indoors and the slave market would be largely empty) they set out through the winding roughly cobbled streets of Westcrown through the dark. Both of them knew of the risks of the shadow creatures, but hoped the storm and the lightning might keep them at bay, as neither has a real light source that could withstand the strong winds. Lhye had darkvision, however, so was reasonably comfortable with guiding them along.

For Players: Learn the Rules Beyond Your Character Sheet

Basically, this is a simple piece of advice. If you don't know that the rules allow you to charge, you won't get that choice. If you don't know you can request an equipment bonus from your sneakers, you won't run as good. And if you don't know what the fighting styles are, why would you pick one?

Relying on the Storyteller and other Players is all very well and good but after awhile you should bite the bullet and read the books. No one expects you to memorise them as well as some of the other players in the party but if you familiarise yourself with them, at least you've got a good starting base. Even if you don't remember the specific mechanics, you can know the fundamental basics of the rules, or the fluff surrounding it, and take that into account when making your decisions.

In short, don't hide from the rules just because they involve numbers. Take a look through the books and see what you pick up.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ship-based Pathfinder Campaign

Sorry about the long delays in posting but the arm overuse injury keeps flaring back up. I've been to see a physio and have been advised that I should take it easy but am able to get back onto the keyboard. So, I thought I'd start by posting up some information on my new Pathfinder campaign. Hopefully I'll have the time / energy to finish off my other weekly article lines as well. Anyway, on to show off my beautiful new campaign based around a massive Avistan / Garund-spanning sea-based campaign.

I'd decided this campaign was going to be the Shackles Pathfinder Adventure Path way back in December 2011 to follow up on Crimson Throne but realised that I had far too many ideas to simply stick to a pre-made. By mid-February, 2012, I entered the planning phases where I settled on a starting city (Westcrown, Cheliax), determined the primary regional conflicts they would face (Cheliax declaring war on Andoren after a 20 year peace treaty) and the approximate time span (about 30 years in the future from Crimson Throne). A lot has happened in those 30 years.

My players diligently created new characters for this campaign. My fiance made about five before finally settling on a Tiefling Witch from Riddleport who came to Westcrown for a more accepted lifestyle with his kin as surely a country that worships devils would treat tieflings kindly (yeah, right!). There's an Andoren Gunslinger who wields Andoren's new secret weapon (pistols and canons, due to the establishment of an alliance with movers and shakers in the Mana Wastes) who serves as the 2nd Lieutenant on an Andoran Naval Vessel. There's a Tianese traveller who's been enslaved twice who has studied combining wizardry with guns. There's a barbarian mercenery, part Tianese, part Chelish, who is always seeking the next cash-based experience and who gets a kick outta hurting people. Then there's the Undine bard / sailor who has sailed on many merchant vessels throughout the Inner Seas.

They're a lively bunch and we began our first adventure two weeks ago. I'll update you soon with what happened in the sweetly dangerous city of Westcrown.