Friday, August 5, 2016

Campaign Recap: The Island. Chapter Three: “Can I ‘Power Word: Blah!’ The Birds And The Bees?”

A bird and a bee? No! It is not so!

May 8th-17th, 317 PE (June 18, 2016)
Roll Call: Rhys, FiCoNiCuZn, Alero, Deron, Argas, Lestazia, Rodney, Nunto, Warsong, Raymond
The party hung out in the City of Letters for an extra day, and FiCoNiCuZn became a member of the Alchemists Guild. Raymond volunteered to help at the local teaching hospital, and joined the Order of Saint Berea as a probationary member (This Order is dedicated to healing the sick and injured, no matter who they are). Alero and Nunto spent a long time at Fochlucan College (a Bard college), and Lestazia visited a very popular pawn shop and got some interesting information (she's a the math). Rodney made some useful connections at the Necroversity, a college dedicated to the arts of death and undeath.

After everyone had the chance to do things, they kept their appointment with Giselle the following morning, and consequently she teleported them to the Paths of Fate Inn, located on the Great Trade Road. Once there, they made the acquaintance of Tabashi, the hobgoblin owner on the inn, and the wily Calibrian merchant Grismacci, who operates the Trade Emporium across the road. Stories were exchanged, trades were made, it was a grand old time.

(The Paths of Fate is no stranger to these recaps. The inn is located roughly halfway down the Great Trade Route, and is situated at an equidistant crossroads linking the Four Young Kingdoms of Ardrovin, Aquitania, Calibria, and Thuringia).

The party met three other adventuring groups at the Inn, because that's the sort of thing that happens when you're in one of the more well-known inns on the continent during the Fourth Age of Heroes. They met the Crazy Badgers, an all-gnome group, the Moonlight Clowder, an all-catfolk group, and the Sable Glove, a pack of advenurers who seem to actually be more aligned towards evil. Warsong eventually ended up insulting Ember, an Ifrit Firedancer Monk, and hey, a new grudge was born, because many Barbarians are less than skilled at diplomacy and discretion! At least FeConNiCuZn made some good friends among the Crazy Badgers, who were fascinated by the appearance of an actual Deep Gnome from the under-world.

There was also an interesting conversation between Raymond, our highly principled Paladin, and Lestazia the Drow Rogue, about the morality of poison use. Raymond felt that no situation warranted the use of poison, even if the poison did nothing more than knock someone out. It ended with an “agree to disagree”, and Raymond’s request that she not use it in front of him, if at all possible. Just a nice little bit of role-playing and character development there.

The party eventually departed the inn and headed southwest down the Great Trade Road. They ran afoul of a group of marauding ogres who attempted to ambush the party, starting off with a truly pathetic javelin attack (ogres are notoriously clumsy). The resulting battle was very impressive, with Warsong doing a particularly great job of wiping out the bad guys, though Argas helped immensely with a well-placed Wall of Fire. In any case, the party showed some extraordinary teamwork during the encounter.

When the dust finally settled, there were only two ogres left, and they were in the process of running for their lives, taking opposite directions. One got away, conveniently shielded by the Wall of Fire. The other one tried to escape, but Raymond took out a bow and made an impressive shot, felling the ogre and proving the point that justice will always catch up with the perpetrator. You can run, but you can't avoid that arrow in the back!

As for the one who ran away, the party, always keen on finishing what they started, tracked it back to its lair, where a few more ogres were waiting for their fellows to return with loot and today's meal. Helped immensely by Deron casting Spike Stones inside the ogres’ cave, the battle was over practically before it began. The cave made a nice place to hole up and rest.

In the span of a few days, the party got a first-hand tour of the inns located down the Great Trade Road, starting off of course at the Paths of Fate, then the Lucky Mug, the Sapphire Dragon, and eventually, the Sign of the Eclipse.

The Eclipse was a, to put it politely, “roadhouse”-like establishment, filled with a lot of sketchy characters. It was run and owned by Plank (as in, "solid as a..."), a half-orc retired fighter, with a no-nonsense demeanor and an eye-patch.

As the party settled in, Warsong looked for someone to arm-wrestle with because there's no better way to relax after a big fight than to find someone else to fight, even if it's a friendly match. She found Gorf, a fellow half-orc barbarian who was willing to, but on the condition of there being a wager. If Warsong won, Gorf would pay her 5 gold pieces. If Gorf won, she would be his for an hour. Warsong, who apparently is quite the innocent, couldn’t quite grasp what Gorf was after. Her friends tried to explain it to her, hence the title of this recap!

(Let's take a moment to bring the uninitiated up to speed on what 'Power Word: Blah' is. While role-playing is heavily encouraged in our games, including not being satisfied with "I tell the NPC what happened" and making the player role-play the conversation, it can get a little tedious if the player finds themselves having to give the same little speech to each NPC he or she encounters. Therefore, we have Power Word: Blah, which means "I give this person the spiel I've already given the earlier person". This saves time and avoids the tedium of repetition. 

Hey, there's Power Word: Stun, Power Word: Sleep, and Power Word: Kill, right? This works!)

Once the biology lecture was over, she still went along with the wager, deciding that she simply wouldn't lose. Nunto, however, thought the wager was rather lopsided, and managed to use his powers of persuasion to increase the payoff. Gorf agreed, and put up his magic belt as a wager, one of those "Helps you carry lots of stuff" type of belts. Nunto and Alero then played some encouraging music for their barbarian friend, and Warsong won easily, got the magic belt, and her comrades cleaned up on side bets.

(The arrangement was just a little sketchy. Both participants had to divest themselves of any magical items that could give them an unnatural advantage. The bard music on Warsong's behalf was an unfair minor advantage, but I had to play it fair and not have any of the inn's clientele be wise to it, since none of them really have had any experience with the advantages of a bard's powers other than singing great drinking songs!)

Fortunately, the party fostered such a vast amount of goodwill that everyone in the bar considered them to be “one of us!”. Plank was impressed as well (especially since more rounds of drinks were ordered), and the party made a new friend and ally. Before the party left the following morning, Plank told them that a few days prior, another adventuring group had come in, and that one member, a monk with a fiery appearance, was asking about a half-orc female barbarian traveling with a large group of people, including some hobbits and bards.

Plank told the party that the group headed east from the inn, into the wild lands, going completely off the roads. The party’s plan, of course, was to head west along the old abandoned road informally called The Twilight Highway, as they made their way towards Slaughter Swamp. After they made sure Plank wouldn't tell the not-quite-nice adventuring band of their stay, the party set off down the Twilight Highway.

In their travels down the Highway, the party encountered a pack of ghouls, but the undead were quickly annihilated by a Fireball shot from Argas’ staff, expending 3 of the 6 remaining valuable charges. Not a bad investment.

On the following day, as the party continued down the broken old highway, they encountered a pack of 8 wolves, out on the hunt. The wolves approached the party, eager for fresh meat, but uncertain of exactly what to make of the party. Deron the Druid tried using Animal Empathy to quiet them down and send them off. Unfortunately, he rolled a 1, and rather than quiet them down, they were whipped into a homicidal frenzy, incorrectly assuming that he was trying to establish himself as their new Alpha.

Fortunately, as they raced at break-neck speed towards the party in a full-out high-speed charge, Deron cast a Spike Stone spell on the ground in front of them. The wolves were unable to stop in time and were consequently shredded (the simile I used was "like throwing a pork-chop into a chipper-shredder").

And that’s where we stopped; still on the road, kind of like hitting "Pause". Next time: Mosquitos! Fungus! Mud! Humidity! Reptiles! Mildew! Talking turtles!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Campaign Recap: The Island, Chapters One and Two

The new campaign started about four months (fantasy time) after the previous campaign ended. 

ROSTER- The Island
Augie- Rhys- Human Oracle (Dark Tapestry mystery)
Carol- FiCoNiCuZn- Svirfneblin Alchemist
Chris B- Rolof- Dwarf Fighter
Chris T- Alero Lightfoot- Halfling Bard
Dave- Giles Corey- Human Witch
Dibz- Deron Al-Asad- Human Druid from Komar
James- Raymond Du Puy- Half-Elf Paladin from Aquitania
John- Argas Tooken- Hobbit Wizard Enchanter
Katie- Lestazia- Drow Rogue
Nate- Rodney- Human Wizard, Necromancer
Nick- Nunto- Half-Elf Bard
Noelle- Warsong- Half-Orc Barbarian
Seth- Milo Millsbury- Hobbit Paladin

(Interesting party composition here. Lots of fringe types such as an Oracle, Witch, Barbarian, a Drow, and a Deep Gnome. Two bards, so that's unusual, and a LOT of short people. Not many overt tanks, and no Clerics or Rangers. Ouch).

Chapter One: The Island
May 1st-3rd, 317 PE (May 21, 2016)
Roll Call: FiCoNiCuZn, Rolof, Alero, Giles, Deron, Raymond, Argas, Lestazia, Rodney, Nunto, Warsong, Milo
The group departed Anchorage on the Lady Jayne, bound for the City of Letters, each with their own reasons for going. They weren’t the only passengers; there was also a group of fledgling adventurers called the Order of the Griffon, a snarly half-sea elf Rogue named Vislor Turlo, some ridiculous pirate type called Seawater Silas, a couple of Calibrian wine merchants, and a Zorian Inquisitor, whose presence can be directly traced to actions done in the previous campaign.

(In the previous campaign, the party went to the Theocracy of Zor and in the process of fulfilling their quest, freed about 20 "blasphemers" who were left to die in the Swamp of Condemned Heretics. The Zorian clergy has dispatched Inquisitors all over the continent to find the outsiders who dared interfere with the dispensing of justice to the heretics. Inquisitors are going to be a common sight for a while!)

During the trip, the ship chanced upon a dead body on a raft, clutching a small coffer with some valuable trinkets. The body was given a decent burial at sea, and the voyage continued. The coffer was filled with jewelry, but none of it radiated magic.

Unfortunately, in the middle of the night, one of the trinkets, which in fact was a cursed item (cursed items can’t be detected by simple spells; otherwise what’s the point?), transformed the Captain, First Mate, Ship’s Doctor, and Quartermaster into the living dead, specifically a special form of Draugr. This particular brand of horror spreads its curse immediately to a slain victim, raising the latter into a newly made Draugr, like a fast-moving infection.

(Anyone ever see the Heavy Metal animated movie? The vignette about the B-17 bomber?)

The characters hightailed it to the lifeboats, which is more than the other poor passengers managed to do, though some of their fates are unknown (no body no death?). Warsong had the honor of striking the very first blow of the new campaign, a 20-20-hit against the turned Captain, resulting in an instant kill. Nice way to start things off, eh?

(Suffice to say, I was impressed)

Argas actually went off on his own, entered the Captain’s room, got some stuff, and left via the Captain’s own personal dinghy. The two lifeboats cleared the Lady Jayne, leaving it to its fate. The survivors steered towards a flashing light on the horizon.

During the intense rowing, a pair of sharks made a beeline for the lifeboats and attacked, though they were repelled, helped out immensely by a bomb dropped down the gullet of one shark courtesy of FiCoNiCuZn. When the party finally made landfall, it was on the beach of a deserted island (not a desert island- the action is set in temperate latitudes), and it turned out that an ancient fort was the source of the flash of light, the glare from a parabolic mirror set up on one of the fort’s tower.

The party didn’t have time to catch their breath on the beach, as a giant rock crab emerged from the sand and tried to make a meal of them. They ended up defeating it, and turned the tables, using it as a food source, since it was becoming evident that the group would need to secure food until they could somehow get off the island.

The group walked to the old fort, explored it, and discovered that it was an abandoned Imperial outpost, evacuated when the Valgarion Empire collapsed three centuries back. The group read some documents deliberately left behind and realized that the departing troops left a cache of stuff on the off-chance that the Empire was restored and the fort was needed again. They found the stash and were able to access it thanks to an idea from Nunto. One of the things they found was a Folding Boat! Hooray! A way off the island!

The party also discovered that the fort had a graveyard, with a section set aside for burying violent criminals on unconsecrated ground. The party realized that about a half-dozen undead, the souls of these evil dead, still lurked on that cursed patch of land. Avoidance was recommended and practiced.

(Now it can be told; there were six wraiths there. Since they hate sunlight, the party would be safe in the daytime. If they wandered around at night, well..)

Finally, the group explored a hill on the island’s north-eastern quadrant, and ran afoul of a pair of sirens, who tried to charm the party but were thwarted by the bards. Despite one of the sirens launching a devastating sonic attack on the group, the latter managed to defeat them and grab some extremely nifty loot.

(I messed up here and should have ruled one character dead, but since it was my mistake, I let it slide. Besides, we were on the verge of calling it a night. I was more interested in being all murdery and stabby during the Draugr part).

It was about at that point that the group decided they had enough. They resolved to use the Folding Boat to sail back to civilization.

There were actually THREE ways off the island. The second was assembling the pieces of a pump scattered throughout the fort, repairing the damage done to a small sailing ship, the Swiftsure, which was sunk at its moorings, pump out the water, and leave. The third was to cool their heels on the island for another couple of days until a pirate ship arrived and a landing party made landfall in a longboat in order to bury a treasure chest.

Chapter Two: The Escape
May 4th-8th, 317 PE (June 18, 2016)
Roll Call: Rhys, FiCoNiCuZn, Rolof, Alero, Giles, Deron, Argas, Lestazia, Rodney, Nunto, Warsong
When we last left our intrepid group, they had decided that they had enough of the island, since the place seemed intent on killing them.  (Spoiler alert: It was!) They grabbed their supplies, stowed them on the Folding Boat, and sailed off west, using maps found in the fort to help with navigation.

Unfortunately, the island wasn’t done with them yet. See, ever since the party had approached the island, a colony of sahaugin had tracked them. In fact, the shark attack from Chapter One was carried out by sharks under the command of the hideous sea folk.

Anyways, the sahaugin saw the group about to escape on a boat (unknown to the party, a small band of sahaugin had already smashed the original lifeboats into kindling!), and did an en masse boarding, over twenty of them! Luckily, Nunto used his bardic powers of fascination to lull the vast majority of the sahaugin into inaction, buying the group the chance they needed to seize the initiative, so to speak.

(This move turned the tide of the battle before there was even a battle. Who says bards are useless?)

After defeating (or driving away) the sahaugin and their shark cohorts, the party resumed their voyage, reaching the City of Letters on the 7th. Thanks to Derin using his magic staff to increase the wind, they managed to shave off a good chunk of sailing time, and thus decreased the likelihood of a sea encounter. Once there, they reported the loss of the Lady Jayne to the Imperial authorities and took up rooms at one of the better inns.

A Wizard from the Circle of Mysteries Arcane, Giselle, summoned the party to help her. Word of their survival of the Lady Jayne Incident, as it’s now known, spread fast, and she felt that the group had the tenacity, smarts, skills, and sense of responsibility to successfully handle her task. Giselle was researching the ancient Elven network of Ghost Stones that uses the Ethereal Plane, and discovered that several of them were somehow in use again after centuries, possibly even millennia, of inactivity.

(Giselle is a familiar face. She was at the Paths of Fate Inn at the very first Hawkhaven campaign. The Circle of Mysteries Arcane is the oldest, most powerful, and most respected mage guild on the continent).

There were two stones in particular that she wants to have reactivated, but they cannot be accessed via the Ethereal Plane; they had to be physically activated on this plan. One was located in Slaughter Swamp, a nasty marshy area on the borders of the Orc Kingdom that lies far to the west. The other was located eastward back across the ocean on the Spindrift Islands, near the pirate city of Dockland (otherwise known as Nelmar on the Sea, and a few other names that shouldn’t be mentioned).

(Think of Tortuga from the Pirates of the Carribean)

But there was one more task needing doing: the Elven Kingdom of Hanael contacted the Wizards guild a year ago and asked for their help in finding a cure for the wasting plague that’s been affecting select young Elven women for the past few years. After much intense research, the guild stumbled upon what they think is a cure: a potion made from a rare fungus called Avro’s Parasol, known to grow only in Slaughter Swamp. So, in essence, something in the Orc lands holds the key to the well-being of the Elves. Yay, irony! The guild needs ten pounds of this fungus in order to make enough of the cure for everyone (a little goes a very long way).

Giselle told the group that they could choose to go to either location first. They chose the swamp, so when the party is ready, she will teleport them to an inn on the Great Trade Road, a place called the Paths of Fate, and they can go west from there. Once they activate the gate, they should use it, and their next step will become obvious.

Also, Argas and Rodney joined the Circle of Mysteries Arcane as probationary members. Succeed at the two tasks, and they’re totally in as full-fledged members.