Friday, August 31, 2012

Beast of the Week: Humbaba

Going WAY back for this week's beast, we've got one of the oldest known monsters from the Epic of Gilgamesh, Humbaba, the guardian of the Cedar Forest that the hero and his companion Enkidu capture then slay so that they can bring cedar wood back to Gilgamesh's city of Uruk.  Here's a stab at him in D&D terms:

Armor Class: -1 (21)
Hit Dice: 12***
Move: 120 (40)
Attacks: 2 fists/1 bite + gaze
Damage: 3d6/3d6/3d6/special
No. Appearing: -- (1d4)
Save As: Fighter 12
Morale: 10
Treasure Type: H
Alignment: Neutral
XP: 3500

Humbabas are lion-faced giants, standing 18' tall.  They serve as protectors and guardians of ancient otherworldly forests, and will violently oppose any who trespass within their domains.  A humbaba is able to communicate with normal animals and plants at will (as the spells), and they can stretch their senses out to a radius of 3 miles through the trees.  They are thus never surprised unless somehow encountered away from their forest homes.  In combat, a humbaba batters opponents with its fists and rends them with its long leonine fangs.  Its gaze is also deadly, and the first time any character meets the gaze (once per encounter), the character must Save vs. Death Ray or die.  Furthermore, each humbaba knows seven Magic-User or Cleric spells of at least 5th level, each of which may be cast once per day.  Each humbaba's spells can be selected as the DM desires, or rolled randomly.

For ease of use, here's a random table to determine spell levels:
Roll 1d8
1: 5th level Magic User spell (roll 1d12 to determine which spell)
2: 5th level Cleric spell (roll 1d8 to determine which spell)
3: 6th level Magic User spell (roll 1d12 to determine which spell)
4: 6th level Cleric spell (roll 1d8 to determine which spell)
5: 7th level Magic User spell (roll 1d12 to determine which spell)
6: 7th level Cleric spell (roll 1d8 to determine which spell)
7: 8th level Magic User spell (roll 1d12 to determine which spell)
8: 9th level Magic User spell (roll 1d12 to determine which spell)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Flying Swordsmen play report

Dean wrote up this play report.  He said I'm free to edit it, but I'll just make two notes:

1. Josh's Ghost Hunter character is named Lao Zun.  Dean couldn't remember.
2. Jeremy's Taoist was using the Heart Crusher spell, not sleep.  No need to have moral debates about throat slitting of sleeping foes when their chests have already been caved in!

Here's Dean's report of play, just as he sent it to me:

August 24, 2012

Last weekend (August 24, 2012) we playtested Dennis’s roleplaying game “Flying Swordsman.” There was Wu Xiaowei the Taoist magician played by Jeremy; a Ghost Hunter (similar to an assassin) played by Josh; and Xiong Di Di, an Animist Shaman of the Great Bear played by Dean.

Very Elder Karl was summoned across the veil from Ur by the prayers of a group of monks to the Great Panda. The monks called him Xiong Di Di, Little Brother Bear, in their language. The Ghost Hunter had already adventured once previously, so he instructed the two new party members on the convolutions of intrigue in this town. At the outset of this current adventure the party was seeking information about a star map which had been pulled out of the butt of a wooden monkey statuette.

Gong Lan the beautiful and deadly thief aided us and persuaded us to help her further. We visited Dian Ma Su the County Examiner, one of whose bureaucratic duties was to store and catalogue the county’s maps. This man revealed that the map was not a star map of any known stars, but that it was probably a map of local features encoded as a fake star map: a treasure map in other words. The Examiner was very friendly, suspiciously so, and helpful to a point, at which he quickly made his exit and refused any enticement to linger. Our wizard detected a faint glamour upon him.

Further questions in the market place and in taverns from such men as Old Kwan “who loves maps” revealed that an old gentleman scholar and cartographer named Hwang lived two hours walk from town in a country villa. The heroes traveled there immediately, and the scholar informed them that he would gladly help decipher the map, if only the party would take care of the local bandits for him. Said bandits had paid especial attention to stealing rare and learned books.

We decided to rush back to the town and use various resources to locate the bandits by drunken rumours, thievish secrets and monastic wisdom. The Abbot of the Great Panda revealed that the bandits were a threat to sacred texts as well, and that there was a rumour that the bandit chieftain was a monster of some sort who appeared human. Then everyone returned to the scholar’s villa, attempting to draw out the bandits by appearing as learned and feeble scholars debating along the road and with scrolls sticking from our backpacks.

Xiong Di Di mentioned that at dawn the next day, he could pray to a minor spirit of the Great Panda and ask four questions. We decided to ask, “Where is the bandit lair?” “What is the key to the code of the map?” “Who personally knows the bandits?” “What sort of creature is the bandit leader?” Of course there was little guarantee that such a minor spirit would know much regarding these questions, but we hoped for the best.

However even before darkness had settled long that night, the villa was attacked by twenty bandits! We ran to the gatehouse and saw three tough-looking leaders among the throng. Gong Lan immediately sprang down into the midst thereof though to little effect at first. The Ghost Hunter prepared to fight, Elder Karl blessed everyone and Wu Xiaowei cast a spell of sleep upon some of the lesser bandits.

Two of the bandits jumped high into the air onto the ramparts of the wall, and there they struck down the Ghost Hunter with two mighty blows. Xiong Di Di healed him, but things were desparate. Wu Xiaowei continued to cast spells of sleep, followed eventually by a charm spell against one of the leaders. The fight quickly turned against the bandits. Xiong Di Di realized that most of the bandits were not at the gate and hurried back to the inner house, but it was too late: the bandits had knocked the scholar unconscious and stolen some sort of document or map.

Fortunately the charmed bandit proved very willing to discuss his comrades’ immediate plans and location. The party made great plans for the next day as rest and recuperation were required now. The next chapter awaits.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

It's worse than that, it's physics, Jim!

Thanks to Typhoon Bolaven, we had the day off.  Of course, it also meant we spent the majority of it indoors.  What to do? 

Well, first of all, in the morning my son wanted to listen to his new favorite song, Star Trekkin' by The Firm.  This is an old novelty song from the 80's that I included on a CD to use with my kindergarten students.

After listening to it about 5 times, I answered a few questions, and before you know it, we were watching an episode of TOS (Space Seed, the one where they find Khan in cryogenic sleep).  We also watched an episode of the D&D cartoon.

My son is now a big fan of James T. Kirk, mostly thanks to them sharing the name James.

Just before bed, we watched some Land of the Lost and a bit of Super Friends. 

Thank you, Typhoon Bolaven!

Nothing special gaming-wise to report, although Tenkar's Tavern is featuring my little contribution to the OSR, Flying Swordsmen, this week.  Thanks, Erik!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

OSR Obituaries?

Some people have been reporting the death of the OSR.  In reply, I say:

It had to be Python or Twain.  Python won.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Beast of the Week: Space Monkey

Having a little fun this week with the beast.  I've been watching the old Super Friends cartoon, as well as some Cartoon Planet, with my son.  Both feature heroes with cosmic simian sidekicks. 
Should I start a poll?  Who is better, Blip or Gleek?

Space Monkey
Armor Class: 1 (19)
Hit Dice: 1
Move: 120 (40) Climb 120 (40)
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1d4 or by weapon
No. Appearing: 3d4 (3d8)
Save As: Fighter 1
Morale: 9
Treasure Type: N
Alignment: Lawful
XP: 10

Space Monkeys are simian creatures from another world.  They are extremely agile and their long prehensile tails can be used for many purposes.  They are intelligent, but speak only their own strange language of grunts, hooting, and cries similar to that of normal monkeys.  They can understand Common, however, and often communicate with sign language.  Space Monkeys may become fond of certain heroic individuals or duos, and serve them.  If a Lawful character of at least level 4 or Charisma 16+ gains a Very Friendly reaction from a group of Space Monkeys, one of them will become that character's sidekick.

Dual Stats for Star Frontiers

Space Monkey
Type:  Small Omnivore
Number: 3-30
Move: Medium
IM/RS: 8/80
Stamina: 40
Attack: 40
Damage: 1d10
Special Attack: none
Special Defense: none
Native World: unknown

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

D&D Next Spells - some problems

I'm not quite halfway through the Spells document of the updated play test, but already I'm seeing some potential problems, WotC.

The very first spell on the list, Aid.  A third level Cleric spell that gives three targets d8 damage reduction on the next hit they take within the next minute.  Seriously?  Third level?  The orignal Aid spell in AD&D Unearthed Arcana (unchanged for 2E) gave the benefits of Bless, as well as d8 temporary hit points.  Not damage reduction on a single hit, temporary hit points.  And it's only second level.*  Granted, it only affected one target, not three.  But still, this version sucks.  Even if the Cleric's player rolls well and gets an 8, by the wording of the spell if something dings you for only 1 point of damage, the other 7 points are then wasted.

Meanwhile, Crusader's Strike on page 5 is a first level spell that gives +2d6 damage to a weapon on its next attack, and even if you miss still does 1d6 damage.  Obviously this is a 4E power converted into a normal spell.

It looks to me like Mearls and Co. are continuing their nerf of the Cleric at least with regards to any spells with pedigree.  Anything that they developed for 4th and are carrying over is allowed to be overpowered.

It's just a first impression.  I really need to go through the document completely.  It would help if they'd organized the spells in the old fashioned way, divided by class and level.  Makes for easier comparison.

A little voice in the back of my head is wondering if they organized them this way on purpose to make it difficult to compare...

*Update - Just checked the 3.5 SRD.  In that edition, it was still second level, and gave the benefits of the AD&D version (Bless + 1d8 temp. hit points to one target) PLUS +1 hit point per level of the Cleric up to level 10.  3E made it better.  5E is making it demonstrably worse (maybe it was 4E, I'm not gonna waste time checking that one).

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Double Feature: The Murder Machine/The Apes of Wrath

Got to play games on G+ both Friday and Saturday night this weekend.  My wife was in a good mood.  ;)  Here's a double feature summary of events.

Friday, Jeremy ran a game set in Eberron using his own simple Microlite/Risus hybrid 2-page system, Super Simple 20.  [Jeremy, you should update your blog with your recent pictures and your system!]

Playing were Dean as Bumblesnick d'Sivis the Gnome Illusionist, Adam as Nurzhanbek the Wand Wizard, and myself reprising my old Eberron PC from the Ebisu Group 6 years ago, Ysberir d'Medani the Half-Elf Ranger.

We were sent to Thrane to investigate a series of murders.  The victims were all human, with no apparent links to who they were or where they were murdered.  We did our best to track down clues to the murderer's identity, and were sent on the path towards a heretical cult of the Whisperer in the Flame (for those not familiar with the setting, Thrane is the home of paladins who worship The Silver Flame, and don't take kindly to thoughts of demon worshipers worshiping their sacred fire).  Also Bumblesnick had a wine-induced dream of small creatures in the sewers worshiping giant albino cockroaches.

A helpful paladin sent us on the trail of the local cafe-lounging wizards.  One of them was making creepy racist remarks at Bumblesnick, which freaked him out and sent him back to the guild hall early.  Ysberir and Nurzhanbek followed the younger wizards to a frat-party style bar, where after drinking contests and head-butting contests (I won the drinking, Nurzhanbek lost the head-butting), the same creepy wizard led us to a goblin information merchant named Scuttle. 

At Scuttle's, we learned some information about the cults, and then Ysberir noticed something hanging from a wall above us.  It was humanoid, with a pale bone-white face and six eyes.  We fired on it, with Nurzhanbek's spell causing it to fall.  It landed heavily.  Ysberir (his bow string again broken - Steve, laugh away!) hit it with his axe.  It took the hit and didn't flinch.  Then it just stood there examining me.  Nurzhanbek blasted it again.  Ysberir tried his longspear, but the creature snapped it in half.  Nurzhanbek started running, and it started following, making only a brief pause to once again examine Ysberir only to find too much Elf in the Half-Elf to bother killing.

It chased Nurzhanbek to a Paladin Temple, where the priests and monks thought he must be a crazy drunk.  And that's where we ended things for the night.


Last night, we continued our Vaults of Ur game, Justin of course is the DM.  We had a big group: Jeremy as Ripper the Resurrected, Tedankhamen as Digger the Orc, Alexei as Maya Culpar the Elf, Dean as Elder Karl Cleric of the Great Bear, and myself as Thidrek the Sleestak.

Our previous adventure to resurrect Ripper left us indebted to the Priests of the Great Bear.  They asked us to investigate and exterminate a pack of giant carnivorous apes.  A renegade heretic priest of the Bear had thought to use them in a power play, but instead released them on the city. 

Scouring the ruins southwest of the Obelisk, we encountered some relatively fresh bodies of three adventurers.  They seemed to have been rent by animals as well as slashed by blades, within the past 48 hours or so.  Following a blood trail south through the ruins, we came to a warehouse that was still mostly intact.  There was one door, no windows, and the blood went right up to the shut doors.  On the roof, Thidrek noticed some holes in the wood, and looking in, saw a pair of boots.  Calling down, there was a cry for help followed by someone muffling the voice. 

Wasting no time, Elder Karl used his stone fist to blast open the door.  We rushed inside, through the door we thought led to the people.  There were three battered humans with two trussed up and unconscious Orc Magi.  Not sure who were the good guys and who were the bad guys, we struck to subdue, and soon knocked the three humans out.  Searching them revealed Spiked Circle necklaces, so we quickly trussed them up.  The Orc Magi were adventurers from Fort Low, companions to the three we had found earlier.  The Spiked Circle set upon them and captured these two.  Then the Spiked Circle were set upon by the apes. 

We thought we'd make sure the building was clear then rest there before heading back to Fort Low (the orcs wanted to high tail it out right away).  Karl and Maya's torchbearer went to repair and lock the front door.  Thidrek stayed with the orc magi to guard the prisoners.  Ripper, Digger and Maya went to the next room, and found a giant spider, which they quickly dispatched.  The door secured, Karl joined them in the third room.  This time, a gigantic beetle attacked from under the floor.  Karl got pulled half under the floorboards and bitten several times.  Thidrek and the orc magi finished off the Spiked Circle guys and Thidrek rushed to help as everyone stabbed furiously at the beetle to save Karl.

Thidrek (thanks to a natural 1) also fell in with the beetle, as did Digger.  One chicken from Thidrek's bag later and the beetle decided it had taken enough punishment and had enough to eat in the bird, and turned tail.  Last minute strikes from Elder Karl and Maya dropped it, and a natural 20 on the corpse allowed Ripper to decapitate the dead bug in one swing. 

Thidrek and Karl explored the beetle's tunnels, and found a bag of gems and a scroll case (but no dead halflings wrapped in mithril coats - Elder Karl's holy grail of treasure).  Following the tunnel to the surface, we used the stone fist again to close the hole.  That's when we noticed the building surrounded by apes.  8' tall apes!  Backing away, Elder Karl made some noise, and the apes were on us.  Karl used the stone fist one more time to knock a wall over on them.  We screamed and yelled to attract the attention of the others.

With Karl and Thidrek in melee with the five apes, and the others peppering them with arrows, we took down two and the other three turned tail.  We followed them a bit, but they seemed to be calling for help from more apes, so we retreated to the warehouse, gathered the orc magi and a barrel of very nice wine we found in the spider room, and headed back to Fort Low.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Thoughts on character creation in D&D Next

My commute reading today is the D&D Next play test update stuff.  So far, I've made it through the races and classes documents, and skimmed the backgrounds and specialties documents.

First up, the change in name from "Themes" to "Specialties" gets a big thumbs up from me.  The word theme reeks of artifice.  Books, music, paintings, movies, etc. have themes.  Political campaigns have themes.  People do NOT have themes.  My character does not have a theme, although the adventures in which that PC participates may have one.  Ditching that term takes the game one step farther away from the dissociated wargame that was 4E.  Bravo.

Next, rolling for ability scores.  Yea!  Of course it's 4d6-L arrange to taste, but at least point buy is not mentioned and the "default array" is mentioned that it's just there for speed and convenience.  Roll them dice!

Hit points have returned to AD&D/3E levels.  Max HP at level 1 is still the default (as in 3E), but then I've been using that since my Mentzer Red Box, so I have no quibbles with that.  The option to take a set amount of HP at each higher level is there, or you can roll.  I still haven't looked at the monster document to see how the monster HP fare, though. 

Races - wow, a whole heaping ton of fluff about the races, that basically says the generic stereotypes of the races anyway.  Dwarves dig tunnels, drink beer, like to fight, are grumpy and stubborn.  Did you need to spend a page and a half telling me all that?  Sub-races are a default mechanic.  Not a good thing.  It's just one more choice needed at character creation and looks to only serve min-maxers (for example, High Elf gets you +1 Int for your Wizard, while Forest Elf gets you +1 Dex for your Rogue or Ranger).  I don't expect that you'd see many Hill Dwarf Clerics when Mountain Dwarf gets you a +1 Wis.

Classes - some interesting things here.  First of all, Level 10 spells.  Really?  REALLY???  With level 0 spells (Orisons/Cantrips) the game will now have 11 levels worth of spells.

Clerics - an interesting magic mechanic.  Memorize your X spells per day, but then you can choose any of them to cast up to X times per day.  Sort of like the 3E Sorcerer, but you need to limit your spells known.  You always have your Domain spells and Turn Undead prepared without taking up slots.  I don't like that Turning takes up a spell slot to use, but oh well.

Fighters - the expertise die mechanic.  You get a d6 each round (more and bigger dice as you level) that you can use each round for extra damage, damage reduction, or to pull off a special maneuver.  Interesting.  Not sure if it will prove overpowering or not.  It may be a nice simple way to give Fighters that edge they've always supposed to have had over Rangers, Paladins, and the like.

Rogues - I didn't notice too much different about them.  Sneak Attack starts at +2d6 dice, though.  Is that new, or was it in the first play test doc?  Don't remember and I'm too lazy to go look it up.  The Rogue scheme basically gives you an extra Background plus what amounts to a feat tree, so Rogues will have six trained skills total (Fighters only get 3, I think, while Clerics and Wizards get 4).

Wizards - Pretty much as before.  Cantrips are at will powers (including Magic Missile), while other spells are standard Vancian magic. 

General Impression - Better than the first iteration.  If they continue with what they've got here, I'd buy a copy of the PHB to have for reference if someone wanted to run this game.  Like Pathfinder, I would happily play, but doubt I'd ever run the system.

Now, the really bad news.  Whoever is writing the copy for these playtest documents needs to be taken out back and shot.  And I'm not complaining about the abundance of useless fluff (if they had new takes on the races, I wouldn't consider that fluff useless, but as it stands they're not telling me anything new about them so it's just a waste of space).  The style of 4E, with its overly complex faux legalese is annoying and makes it hard to comprehend in a few places. 

Ex. one of the Fighter combat maneuvers is a "dead eye" ranged attack thing.  What it does is let you roll an Expertise die when shooting at a target with cover, but the bonus cannot exceed the penalty to hit from cover.  The way it's worded makes it sound like you're better at shooting people with more cover.  Also, since other maneuvers let a Fighter simply exchange the die for an automatic effect like knocking prone or pushing the target 10' away, why not just expend the die to ignore the cover penalty, rather than making it a chance to ignore the whole penalty, but with a high chance to "roll over" and "waste" that extra accuracy? 

Mike Mearls and WotC (OK, I realize you're not reading this, but I'll address this to you anyway), seriously, stop writing the rules in overly detailed but dense ways just for "that one guy."  Nobody likes to play with "that one guy" anyway, and the rest of us are intelligent and mature enough NOT to abuse the rules just because they're written in plain English instead of near gibberish faux legalese.

On my next commute, I'll look at the Backgrounds and Specialties, plus equipment and spells.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Beast of the Week: Calopus

A rare beast from Medieval heraldry, likely inspired by legends in the Ancient Middle East, the Calopus.

Armor Class: 3 (17)
Hit Dice: 3+1
Move: 180 (60)
Attacks: 2 horns
Damage: 1d10/1d10
No. Appearing: -- (2d6)
Save As: Fighter 3
Morale: 7
Treasure Type: C
Alignment: Neutral

A predatory beast with the body of a wolf, head of a boar, serrated goat horns, and reptilian rear legs.  Calopuses are usually found in forests and plains, where they hunt in packs similar to wolves.  Their favorite tactic is to chase prey up into trees, then saw down the trees with their horns.  A calopus can cut down a tree trunk 1' thick in one Turn.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Busy day!

Today, the package from home, with the second hand AD&D books I ordered, arrived.  The MM is in worse shape than advertised (cover is all bubbly and the bottom of the spine smooshed - the fact that about one in ten pictures have been colored bothers me a little, but at least whoever it was had good sense for the coloring schemes used), but the MMII and OA books are in very good condition. 

Also, as you've probably heard, the next D&D5 Play Test packet is available for download.  Downloaded it, haven't looked at it yet.

Ditto for Hackmaster Basic, which is now free in .pdf.  Downloaded, haven't looked at it yet.

I've got about 100 pages left of A Dance with Dragons, though, and it's due back at the library Thursday but I don't have time to take it back then.  Tomorrow, Wednesday, is a public holiday here in Korea (V-J Day) so if I can get it finished tonight or tomorrow morning, I can take it back and not have to worry about being overdue (although the penalty here is just not being able to check out more books for as long as you went over the due date).

And I kinda need to put something together for my next Flying Swordsmen game, too.

All that RPG reading will have to wait.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Beast of the Week: Skoffin

Turning to Icelandic lore for this week's beast, we get a variant basilisk called the Skoffin.

Armor Class: 4 (16)
Hit Dice: 6+1**
Move: 60 (20) Fly 150 (50)
Attacks: 1 + gaze
Damage: 1d10/petrification
No. Appearing: 1d6 (1d6)
Save As: Fighter 6
Morale: 9
Treasure Type: F
Alignment: Neutral
XP: 950

Skoffins are winged basilisks.  Unlike their land-bound cousins, skoffins have dragon-like wings that allow them clumsy flight.  The skoffin lacks the ability to petrify with its bite, only with its gaze (following the same rules for the basilisk).  Skoffins have a weakness to their own gaze attacks.  Any skoffin that meets the gaze of another skoffin, or its own gaze in a mirror, suffers a -4 penalty to its save vs. petrification.  Unlike a standard basilisk, a skoffin can only be damaged by silver or magical weapons.  Some rare skoffins are able to breathe fire, as a red dragon, in a cone 60' long and 20' wide at the far end, three times per day.  The breath weapon does damage equal to the skoffin's current hit points, although victims may make a save vs. breath weapon for half damage.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Invincible Flying Phoenix Star!

Last night I ran a game of Flying Swordsmen for Justin (DM of our fortnightly Vaults of Ur game), Josh, and Pat (both of the old Board Game Group). 

It was a chance for me to try out a different initiative system for the game.  The original one didn't work so well, and the way we did it last night was fine, but there's still something that calls to all of us about having varied weapon/spell speeds.  So there are still some bugs to work out for the planned revision.

I had them start their characters at 3rd level.  Dragon Fist, the game I cloned, started at 3rd level.  I realized why.  The 1st level characters just don't have enough oomph to feel like competent martial artists.  There also seems to be some relevance in JB's "stages of exploration" posts.  Warning, they're a long read.  Even by JB standards.  Flying Swordsmen is not a game of dungeon crawling.  Sure, there will be hazard sites to explore, but that's not the main focus of the game.  The XP system is designed differently than standard D&D (more combat XP, and lots of XP for non-combat challenges, but none for loot).

When I was putting together Flying Swordsmen, though, the question that came up several times was "Why start at 3rd level in a 10 level game?  That's cutting out two levels of play."  So I think the solution will be to go ahead and start everyone at 3rd level as in Dragon Fist (keeping 1st and 2nd level for flunky NPCs), but add on an 11th and 12th level above what was in Dragon Fist. 

Anyway, I've got two weeks to think of another initiative method to try out.  The guys had some good suggestions, so I'll see if I can work anything out of their ideas.

And if any of the guys want to write up play reports or draw some pictures, I'll happily post them here and award some bonus XP, as in our Ur games.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Dream Quest of Unknown Ripper

Last night's game was no where near as cosmically horrifying as a Lovecraft tale, but it was plenty bizarre, and really fun, too.  Last session, while fighting in defense of the Hive, Ripper was parted from his mortal coil, and last night we went to bring him back.  I'm getting ahead of myself, though.

First, for introductions.  Justin of course was running his Vaults of Ur game on G+.  Players included Jeremy playing Ripper's ghost; Dean playing Elder Karl, servant of the Great Bear; Alexei playing Maya Kulpar, Elf extraordinaire; Tedankhamen playing new PC Digger the Orc, Ripper's little brother, and of course myself playing Thidrek the Sleestak.

We started out the session taking Ripper's Ur-thly remains (did Justin mention something about hating puns last night?) to an island just off the coast from Fort Low, a sacred place to The Great Bear.  The priests charged us 3000gp, but since we could only scrape together 2200, we still owe them a debt, which we will likely discharge next session.  Anyway, they led us in a trance-session after giving us some weird herbal concoction to drink, and off we went through the Astral Plane to the Orcish Afterlife.

[map from the game, made by myself and Ted, here]
We arrived on a promontory above a void, with a tower there.  After a brief exploration, not finding anything there, we headed down a stairway to a castle below, where a battle was raging.  Orcish Heaven is sorta like Asgard, where the slain Orcs relish in endless combat.  But something wasn't right.  The enemy assaulting the gates was not orcish.

Entering the castle, we were brought before Ripper, and his commander Shredder (mask, claws, silly voice, etc.) allowed us to take the hero away, so that he could exact revenge upon the mortal sphere.  He told us we'd have to cross the island to get to the Ship of Souls.  That, of course, would not be easy.  We had three paths, and Shredder advised us to wait for nightfall to slip past the attackers after we'd chosen our path.  The three paths were along the Winding Stairs along the coast, through the deep Old Forest, or also through the forest, but a part of it that was overgrown ruins.

Thidrek pressed for the ruins, but was outvoted.  The Winding Stairs it was.  We were making our way along them, cliffs to one side, sea to the other, when we spotted several blue glowing shapes headed our way.  The soldiers attacking the orc castle had been sort of like terra cotta warriors.  Approaching were six of them on wings.  I suggested we lay low as they hadn't spotted us yet, but others wanted to run.  As soon as we started running, they spotted us and attacked.

The battle lasted a while, with Thidrek putting in a fairly good performance.  Except for one round, when I rolled a natural 1 making me miss that round and go last the next, I hit every time.  I did sustain two wounds, though, taking me precariously close to death.  Maya also took a severe wound, which we thought had killed her, until Justin graciously reminded Alexei that he uses max hit points at first level, which meant Maya would have just barely survived (death in the afterworld meant us returning from the dream-trance, and losing a point from one random ability score).  Digger and Elder Karl each also took hits, but we prevailed, with Maya and Thidrek using spear and crossbow to take down the last flying warrior as it tried to run (Maya lost the cool spear she picked up in the Hive, though).

At the end of the Stairs, we came to the Plain of Bones.  Pretty much what you'd think from the sound of it.  There was a large mesa in the middle, and at the far end the Burning City we'd seen in the distance from the tower above the orcish castle.  After debating which way to go, we decided to skim the forest edge.  We heard many wolf-cries, but didn't meet any wolves.  We also saw a giant bird with a 30' wingspan fly over and head for the mesa.  Coming close to the Burning City, we saw ranks of the strange enemy soldiers in front of it, and decided to try another way.  That's when Digger noticed the giant worm-maggot things out in the Plain of Bones.

We made for the Mesa, and the Worms finally noticed us, and came searching for our vibrations (like in Tremors).  I climbed the mesa, didn't find the giant bird's nest, but did see that above the Burning City was the banner of the Spiked Circle.  Curious.  Something is rotten in Orc-mark.  I also detected some ruins far off across the Bone Plains.  I'd expressed this crazy idea already (in true Ray Harryhausen Sindbad fashion), and finally got to pull it off.  We found the cave where the giant bird nested in the side of the mesa.  When it emerged, Thidrek lassoed it.  Everyone else grabbed on, and the bird flew us out over the Bone Plains.  Well, most of the way.

We were dropped about 50 feet from the start of the ruins, and the worm-maggots were coming quickly.  We ran, and made it.  The ruins were full of shades of the departed.  We found the docks, and the Ship of Souls.  The iron-clad boatman raised a hand to Ripper for payment.  He tried coppers.  No good.  Silver?  Also no good.  The boatman then reached out and took one of Ripper's eyes.  The stoic Orc took it like a man.  The ship set sail.

As we road through the mists, we noticed the Burning City come detached from the Orc Valhalla and start to follow us, but then the mists closed, and we awoke back at Great Bear Island, our mission a success.  Ripper now has one all red eye.  Not sure what strangeness that will cause, but we're looking forward to the next session.  And it's nice to have our main warrior back!

Of course, now we're broke and indebted to the Cult of the Great Bear...

Map of the Orcish Underworld

Here's the map of tonight's G+ game, in which we entered the lands of the Orcish dead. 

Full play report will come tomorrow.  It's after midnight and I'm kinda beat.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Beast of the Week: Echidna

Continuing with the Greek Mythology influence, here's another nice little monster to trouble your PCs.  Echidna.  Not the mother of monsters immortal version, but the Argive Echidna, which is a better monster for mere heroic mortals to tackle.  She is a dracaena (female dragon) similar to Scylla.

Armor Class: 0 (20)
Hit Dice: 9**
Move: 90 (30) Fly 240 (80)
Attacks: 2 + gaze
Damage: 1d6+1/1d6+1/charm
No. Appearing: 1d4 (1d4)
Save As: Fighter 9
Morale: 9
Treasure Type: G
Alignment: Chaotic
XP: 2300

Echidna is a fearsome creature, half dragon, half nymph.  The beautiful head and torso of a nymph rests atop the body of a dragon.  Echidna have no breath weapon or bit attack, but they have a gaze attack that can charm as a charm person spell.  An echidna can attempt to charm one target per Round, in addition to attacking with her dragon claws.  Once per day, an echidna may attempt a more powerful charm, acting as a charm monster spell.  The victim takes a -2 penalty on the saving throw against the greater charm.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

From Osten Ard to Narnia to Westeros, all in a day.

I'm just about finished reading Stone of Farewell, the second volume in Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series.  I'm really enjoying the deliberately archaic "what if Middle Earth were more Arthurian?" vibe of the series.  I'm looking forward to the next "book in two volumes" conclusion to the series.

This morning, while reading it, my son asked me to close my book.  He then pointed to the bookshelf and asked me (in Korean IIRC, maybe Japanese, but I'm sure it wasn't English - am I proud of my trilingual 4-year-old?  Hell yeah!  But I digress...), "What's that tiger book?"  Looking up, he was pointing to my collected single volume Narnia series, which has a picture of Aslan (from the movies) on the spine.  "Read it," he said to me, in English this time.  So we read the first chapter of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  Planning to read Chapter 2 tomorrow.

Finally, to Westeros.  I've downloaded the second season of Game of Thrones.  Planning to start watching it as soon as I finish this blog post.  Also, this afternoon I took some of my students to the local English Library, and found A Dance with Dragons on the shelves.  As I haven't read it yet, I checked it out.  Now I need to get Stone of Farewell finished soon, so I can read all 1000 pages of aDwD in two weeks!  Good thing I've still got a few days of vacation left!