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The Brotherhood: Session 1 November 16, 2009

Posted by elopingcamel in 4e, DM, Narrative, The Brotherhood.
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Background Info

The basic story I have going for my players is that a wizard named Vellan the Mulleted (this picture doesn’t do that mullet justice; it is beautiful) has contacted each of them, recruiting them to join his secret band of do-gooders. His friend Douven Staul has been missing for a month now and he is hoping that these young heroes will be able to locate Douven, proving themselves worthy in the process.

Vellan also requested, as a personal favor to him, that the party help escort a half-orc merchant named Korg (idea stolen from here) to Winterhaven and assure his safe passage to and arrival there. Korg is a semi-crippled, trade-goods wagoneer and hardly worth anything in a fight. His half-full cart was drawn by a single large horse.

The party tonight consisted of four level one characters:

  • Carlsberg Torres (male human ranger with sub-class feat of rogue) who prefers to use throwing daggers/knives and attack from afar.
  • Joan Padraig, eldest daughter of Ernest and Vanessa Padraig (idea also stolen and then adapted from here – female human warlord with the inspire build). She ran away from home at the age of 16, so this will be her first trip back home in three years.
  • Phillip Rivers (yes, named after the quarterback) is the wizard of the party (female eladrin wizard, control build).
  • Perrywinkle is the last of the party (male eladrin swordmage, aegis of assault).

The couple playing the two eladrin are married to each other in real life. They played two sessions of the 3.5e Basic Game with me last year. This was their first time with 4e and third time playing D&D ever. They did very well. My wife played Joan and this was easily the most excited I have ever seen her for any semblance of back story or character development.

Combat Highlight

The party began getting ambushed by those dirty little kobolds. Carlsberg was up front and center for the initial kobold minion charge. Two of them hit him, decently damaging him before any PCs had a turn. Phillip was the furthest back and decided to play it safe by climbing a nearby tree. She then sent out a spell of icy terrain to hurt the kobolds and knock them prone (not knowing that they only had 1 hp). Unfortunately Carlsberg was standing in that burst as well. He was hit, suffering max damage, and knocked prone from the spell. Then, by the end of the round, the kobold slinger launched his gluepot at Carlsberg, immobilizing him. It was certainly a rough round for Mr. Torres. Yet, he survived it alright, laying a pretty nasty smackdown on some kobolds before all was said and done.

The Skill Challenge

The idea behind this one was simply that the heroes were to get Korg and his goods safely to Winterhaven. They did, therefore I gave them 75 XP (It was 3 successes before 3 failures in the end, which is less than Complexity 1). The kobold slinger–who was mercilessly being attacked by Perrywinkle–thought to escape by creating some confusion. He launched a firepot at the horse attached to Korg’s wagon. The firepot landed at the horse’s feet, causing the horse to rear back and then bolt forward, heading directly up the old King’s Road toward the heroes and the last kobold dragonshield.

Phillip, still hiding out about 10′ up in the tree, attempted to leap out onto the horse. Due to a low roll but clever story-telling/role-playing by the girl playing Phillip, we decided that she panicked at the last minute and spun around, grabbing the branch again. The rest of her turn was spent letting go of the branch and falling to the ground. This of course was the first failure in the skill challenge.

A whole round went by as the other heroes finished off the last two kobolds (the dragonshield’s head being lopped off by Joan and Periwinkle’s ferocious stabbing in the back of the slinger as it tried to flee) The cart continued forward, gaining speed just a few feet away from crashing into Joan and Carlsberg. Phillip ran alongside the cart, jumping/climbing atop it and grabbing the reins from the fairly useless Korg. This was the first success. Next, Joan leaped directly onto the horse’s back (she rolled a very high athletics check) to help rein it in. This was the second success. I counted the destruction of the kobolds as the third success and decided that it wasn’t worth dragging out that little scene any further. So I gave them some XP for successfully defending Korg and his goods upon their reaching the town of Winterhaven.

I really like the idea of the skill challenge. I can tell that I’ll need more time to get the kinks straightened out, but I thought it was a great way to add a different element to the encounter so the battle didn’t have to drag out as long. It also gave Phillip–who had not played as large a role in the fighting after the first round–a chance to shine and flex her creative muscles. I think she enjoyed that part of the game the most.

As far as XP goes, I am not sure if I short-changed them. It seemed like the skill challenge was a pretty easy one, so I didn’t think it was deserving of a ton of XP, but I want to reward the girls especially for stepping up to the role playing table and doing a great job. Any thoughts on how much XP should be awarded in this situation?

To End

The party arrived in Winterhaven as the sun was setting. The guards began to question them until one of them noticed the Lady Joan Padraig, returned home after 3 years of absence. He directed the other heroes to Wrafton’s Inn and we closed down shop for the night.

A New Page Turns November 13, 2009

Posted by elopingcamel in Uncategorized.
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This is the first new post that I will have started for many months. Recently I’ve been catching up on finishing old drafts that I had started but never finished.

This Sunday I will be running Keep on the Shadowfell for the first time. I have had a few practice runs with pre-made adventures now and for the most part felt like they met with success. I also learned a lot from them about encounter design and specifically terrain design.

The area where I know that I am the weakest is role playing. That is the part that interests me the most right now, but it is the part that I have experienced the least and therefore with which I feel the most uncomfortable.

My hope is that skill challenges will provide an easily understandable way for my players to begin down that path. Anyway, I don’t really plan on doing anymore write-ups for my 3.5e Eberron campaign. We are going to play again on Saturday (it has been a REALLY long time since the last time we played), but unless something incredibly noteworthy occurs, I feel like my time and efforts need to go more toward providing the most enjoyable experience for my players as possible. So, until further notice, Fetalus and friends will be silently adventuring, far far away from the interwebs.

Barney’s Adventures: A Close November 10, 2009

Posted by elopingcamel in 4e, Barney's Adventures, DM, Narrative.
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I am going to write this from the retconned perspective that the only adventurers to enter or fight in the cave were our 3 heroes and Clarence, Barney’s man-servant. Also, it has been many months since this was actually played and I am having to rely entirely on my poor excuse for a memory. So this will be more summary than play-by-play. It should also be noted that I am combining the events of two game nights into one narrative.

What Happened

The Cave Entrance – The heroes found their way into the cave entrance behind the waterfall and gained a surprise attack on the few goblins there. As their skirmish escalated, the party could hear the very loud creaking of metal on rock, followed by the heavy footsteps of something obviously large. An orc captain came charging into the melee, giving the heroes their first taste of a sizable opponent (as opposed to foes whose strength came in their numbers). The fight dragged on for a while, but eventually the party dispatched their enemies and went down the passage from whence had come the orc.

Deeper into the Darkness – They found a large metal door leading into a system of well-constructed tunnels. They descended the stairs and entered a small cross section of the underground passages. They could hear some soft humming coming from behind one of the doors and cautiously approached. inside they found a small goblin humming and singing to himself as he gathered supplies from what was obviously a supply closet. They captured him and intimidated him into answering their questions. Despite his protests, they dragged him along behind them to guide them to the Dark Lady’s room, where she was holding the Bloodstone. With the goblin as their guide, they were able to bypass what would have surely been a grueling process of trial by elimination. The goblin led them directly and safely to the Dark Lady’s chambers. They crashed through the doors and began to battle the Dark Lady and her zombie minions.

The Final Battle – Things go decently well for the heroes at first, but it soon becomes apparent that the longer they stay there, the more danger they are in of being discovered and trapped–a few goblins had already heard the ruckus and come to investigate. Elfomoto decides that more direct measures are necessary. He finds enough space to make a quick sprint toward the Dark Lady, who is standing directly in front of the podium on which the Bloodstone rests, and successfully flips over her–dodging her attacks of opportunity–safely landing on the other side of the podium. Using the podium itself as a shield from attacks, he safely uses some cloth to pick up and store the Bloodstone. The battle rages on with neither side making strong strides toward victory. In a moment of distraction, Elfomoto is able to quickly climb atop the podium and perform a similar move as the one that got him where he is, and he gracefully flips over danger, narrowly missing the numerous swinging blades of his foes. He lands safely and yells to his comrades that they should flee.

A Sad Farewell – A few members of the party are pretty badly wounded by this point. Barney is very close to death and Clarence even more near that black end. Carlsberg and Elfomoto begin to make their retreat, helping Barney as best they can, but it soon becomes apparent that Clarence is unable to keep pace with them. Barney tried to get back to help him, but watches as his man-servant is cut down. Barney is heartbroken and fires off one last killing spell, buying time for him and his friends to flee down the hall and out of the tunnels. The three heroes return the Bloodstone, claim their reward, and Barney mourns the loss of his friend and slave. His indomitable spirit won’t stay down long, though… He already has plans for getting a better servant in the future.

Thoughts

This was the last night that my step-brother had to play before heading out-of-state for college. What happened well is that we had fun. What could have been better was for me to not try to put so much into that final session. I had tons of fun treasures and surprises for them to discover during their search of the underground lair. However, due to time constraints, most of those plans were basically set aside or left ignored. This makes me sad not because I felt like my hard work had gone unappreciated (which is a common frustration for DMs I have read–and therefore expect to experience), but because better planning could have let them discover these things in conjunction with their more direct approach to the game.

They didn’t even have or take the time to loot the bodies of the dead goblins, so even if I had been smart enough to just drop that treasure/loot in at the end, they didn’t stay long enough to grab it.

The truth is that I am not too worried because I don’t think the players know that they have not been receiving as much loot as is probably considered “standard” in the world of D&D. However, I do want to make sure that they are getting enough incentives to develop their characters. My hope is to incorporate their getting better treasure into the plotlines and hooks so they feel some real accomplishment in upgrading.

What I am proud of is that my first time running 4e I did not have to rely on pre-made adventures. I actually want to try one, but I may wait until I start school again to do that, just because I have the time to plan some good ones while I am out of school right now.

Eberron: The Mournlands November 10, 2009

Posted by elopingcamel in 3.5e, Eberron, Narrative, PC.
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Failan leaves the party at the edge of the Mournlands and refuses any offers for additional pay to carry them in. Lia suggests that the party holds hands as they enter the thick mists that lay heavy over and throughout the area. This turns out to be a brilliant idea, because as soon as we enter the noxious cloud, all of us except for Lia are disoriented and can hardly see a few feet in front of us. Lia is able to maintain a clear head and directional bearing, though so the party, continuing to hold hands, begins their trek through what Fetalus is calling the Mournfog.

Soon they come across an older model of a catapult that looks to have seen use recently, but the war has been over for 4 years. The party begins to investigate, until they notice the corpses of soldiers nearby that look fresh. They were killed by a hailstorm of arrows that littered their bodies and the ground nearby. They begin to search the horizon and see in the distance a battlefield filled with corpses. They decide that the time has come to move on, but not until they discover some goods in and near the bodies that lay close to the catapult.

The party finds some pretty useful loot. Ana finds a symbiont sword that is willing to bond with her due to her elf heritage. Lia (I think) finds a pretty sweet little boomerang that should provide some fun for her, and Fetalus discovers a wand of magic missile. He giggles excitedly in his youthful manner at this wonderful find.

They continue their trek across the wasteland, soon encountering some nasty little skeletons that fight like they have a reason to care. During or soon after dispatching these bony foes, a massive corpse crab surfaces from the sand, ready to lay a thorough beat down to the heroes. The fight rages on for some time before they finally injure the crab enough for it to decide that killing the party is not worth it if it costs him his own life as well. He flees and burrows himself into the sand.

Continuing their trek, the party soon finds the cave entrance for which they have been searching. Despite Ana’s best attempts to calm Wolfie, he is inconsolable and will not enter the dark and creepy cave. The party leaves him above ground, hoping for his safety as they descend into the darkness.

Eberron: Useful Information November 10, 2009

Posted by elopingcamel in 3.5e, Eberron, Narrative, PC.
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This weekend we were able to play our Eberron campaign again. We ended last time right as Fetalus and crew were entering a large, glass-covered ruin to search for information on where to find the schema.

The Map Room

As soon as they enter they see a dwarf zombie, and two fighters (one of which is a female). Wolfie sprints into the melee, biting the dwarf zombie and tripping him to the ground.

Lia rains arrows onto the foes, dealing damage occasionally (her rolling was very hit and miss). Fetalus, thinking he understood flanking rules, decides to swing around the room to cast a spell at the female fighter, who it was becoming obvious was the leader of this little squad. The female fighter immediately sprints at Fetalus the first chance she gets and takes him on. He luckily escapes the initial melee without too much damage and begins to use fight and flight tactics, until Lia can manage to get in close enough to help out. Eventually, the zombie and male fighter are destroyed and the party takes the leader down–Fetalus happily dealing the final blow.

They find some excellent loot on the bodies of the room’s most recently dead persons. Then, the room itself is searched, where clues to the next schema are found. After understanding that the clues carved into the statues in the room relate to points on the giant map on the floor, the group discovers that it is in the foothills of Cyre that the schema will be found. They destroy the clue on the statue, to keep the Emerald Claw from following behind them, and leave the building. As soon as they step outside, they come across a vampiric-looking fellow who seems less than pleased to find adventurers exiting one of the buildings in his site (he is the head of the Emerald Claw crew). After some successful bluffing, Lia convinces him that the room was already destroyed when they went in and that they know nothing of a schema or whatever. A battle almost ensues, but instead the man disappears in a pissed-off flash, obviously intent on relaying information somewhere, despite his obvious desire to kill the annoying fools caught trespassing on his dig.

The party flees the scene and begins the trek to the foothills of Cyre (in the Mournlands). While traveling, Fetalus works with Prince Phillip (his familiar toad) to train him in a level of bard (it actually was just one bard-like ability: the Croak of Courage, which gives a slight bonus to Fetalus). This cost Fetalus some XP, but he was willing to pay it, because nothing sounded cooler to him at the time than Phillip belching out a Croak of Courage at some incredibly needed moment, when Fetalus has lost hope and is about to give up (you may be able to tell that this will not be a power or ability that gets too overused–it was a flavor thing, because Fetalus loves his little toad so much, that he is inspired to fight harder to protect him).

Barney’s Adventures: Lessons Learned November 6, 2009

Posted by elopingcamel in 4e, Barney's Adventures, DM.
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I learned a great lesson about DMing the other night; there are limits to how many people you can let play in a game. I have frequently heard (read) that 5-6 players is the ideal or target number. If your gaming group meets the following requirements that could easily be true: (a) all, or maybe most, have played before and are thus at least semi-experienced–so as to keep the game from slowing down and becoming boring; (b) everybody actually does want to play. I had a night that was pretty homework free, so I acquiesced to run another game for my bro and friends. I was very excited, because I had planned further in advance for the last time we got together and had thus already done quite a bit of the prep work. I could spend time on further encounters and on fine-tuning the ones for our session. Things looked good until…way more people showed up than expected.

Instead of the 6 that I had planned on (mind you the largest group that I’ve ever run was 4 and that was the very simplified 3.5e Basic Set version), we had 8 people show up (only 7 planned on playing). To top it off, my little bro didn’t tell the three people he brought what we were playing, because he thought they’d say, “No,” because… well, let’s face it; D&D does not always have the greatest reputation amongst the general populace.

Things actually did not go nearly as badly as they could have. It seemed like most everybody had fun, but not everyone had fun for the same reasons (i.e. because they actually enjoyed the game). What was worse is that, once my wife and her friend got back from playing tennis, it was pandemonium. It was very hard to get everyone to focus on the game, because it felt like a half hour for each round to go by. One of the girls in particular grew tired of the wait (or the game)  and began to take that mentality of, “If I’m bored, then the only way to have fun is to sabotage the game.” She decided to attack my little bro on her next turn, and rolled well, dealing a ton of damage. Luckily, everyone really was having a good time, and, even thought my little bro was totally upset at being attacked, he thought it was funny and played into the idea that everyone would be ganging up on the traitor that had just turned on the group.

The three newbies had to leave right after her turn it turned out, so we just retconned that whole attack scene, got rid of some PCs and monsters (to make it balanced for the lower levels) and carried on our merry little way. The whole “add 4 PCs to the party without any making it fit story wise, and then taking those same 4 PCs away mid-battle” could easily make quite a few players unhappy and/or annoyed, but in all actuality, the core guys that I have getting together weren’t bugged at all. They are just starting to grasp the idea of an overarching storyline that exists between and connecting the little one-shot encounters that they thought I was putting together. Now it is starting to sink in that these encounters can expand to cover multiple sessions and a continuous storyline. They seemed excited about that.

So for now I have decided that my preferred PC count is 4. 3 works out pretty much just as well as 4 for me, but 4 allows me enough room to bring in some fun foes for them to face without making it too tough, and it still keeps a great pace to the game. Once my little bro leaves town again to go back up to school, then I’ll try to get my wife back intot he little group of my other three friends and that ought to be perfect.

Barney’s Adventures: The Cave Entrance November 6, 2009

Posted by elopingcamel in 4e, Barney's Adventures, DM, Narrative.
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It has been a while since I have played D&D. Life will do that to you I guess. Anyway, I have a few of these recap posts already drafted on here, so I will revise/finish those and put them up. So, here we go.

When last we met, the adventurers had just dispatched a nasty pack of wolves in the forest and then rested for the night.

The next day the three adventurers (and Clarence) take to the road again, but only briefly as they soon decide to veer off into the woods. Soon, as they wander along, heading West, Carlsberg spots a small wooden watchtower, well-hidden amongst the tops of the trees. He also sees a small goblin peering over the top with a crossbow trained directly at him. He breaks off into a run, trying to get some cover and circle around the tower, but the goblin (sharpshooter, lvl 2) gets a shot off that deals some heavy damage, and two goblins (runner, lvl 1) step out to block his path through the trail. One of them lands a nasty blow against Carlsberg, immediately making him change his plans. Barney, having no desire to enter a battle while crossbow bolts are rained down upon them, casts Mage Hand as a minor move, grasping the light crossbow and yanking it from the hands of the goblin before he has any clue what has happened (I was so impressed with my little bro’s cleverness in this that I had to let him do it. I did roll, but I made the strength check the goblin gave have a penalty due to the surprise–the roll was so low it wouldn’t have mattered anyway). Barney then moves toward the two goblin runners and casts Cloud of Daggers on the one that had landed the blow on Carlsberg. The goblin takes some significant damage.

Clarence grabs his cart of ale and heads for cover in the trees to the side and below the tower–the artillery no longer being a threat.

Elfomoto makes his way over to the melee, circling around the goblin runner (the same with the cloud of daggers over him) and makes a flanking attack against him, dealing some more damage.

Carlsberg makes his first sneak attack of the game on the goblin whose attention is now focused on Elfomoto, the obvious and immediate threat. He drives his dagger into the back of the neck of the goblin, dropping him immediately to the ground.

At this point, the goblin sharpshooter was climbing down the tower, fuming about losing his crossbow. Clarence sees him, picks up a rock and hurls it at the goblin, striking him directly in the back of the head, knocking him loose from the ladder to fall down and receive some fairly nasty damage to his head (both from the rock and from landing on it poorly). The goblin takes a couple of rounds to become undazed. By that time, the other remaining goblin runner had been grabbed as he tried to flee, and the party had surrounded the sharpshooter. They tied them to the tower, stripped them of their belongings, and began to question them, asking about how to find the cave entrance. They learned that someone the goblins called the dark lady was in charge and that the cave entrance was behind the waterfall.

They leave the goblins tied to the tower and make their way toward the waterfall cave entrance.