Thursday, October 20, 2016

DM Lessons: Improvisation Building Blocks

Sometimes, you can really force yourself to think on your feet if your players decide to do some investigating and look deeper than the surface of things.

In our last Over the Seas and Far Away session, one of the players went off to his temple to inquire if they have any work. As the DM, I want to remind players of the horrible system of oppressive slavery and corruption that the party is working around the edges of. So he does have a job, alright.

Job is: escort these clearly innocent virtual slaves to their new life of hard labor in a logging camp. Temple is getting paid to transport them.

Player winces, but hey, might be something interesting here, so he does some investigating as to why these prisoners haven't been moved already. "Let me see their paperwork".

Instantly, he's getting paid a bunch more because this shit is shady. Also there are about 50 of the prisoners.

So now as the DM, I have to think up several things.

1. Why haven't the prisoners been moved?
2. What makes this shadier than usual?
3. How can I make this scenario more interesting?

One of the keys to running an effective campaign (sandbox or otherwise) is to have done enough worldbuilding that you have components to put together to flesh out a scenario like this. I improvised thusly:

The prisoners haven't been moved because there are a lot of them, they are dangerous, and the company that contracted for them hasn't sent anyone to get them.

This is shadier than usual because the prisoners aren't from the usual prisoner's channel, and everyone knows it, but are being paid to ignore that.

How can I make this more interesting?  The prisoners are of the same persecuted minority as one of the characters.

I need to put this all into context now, so I start pulling worldbuilding from my back pocket. In the Empire, the half-orcs are a persecuted minority, and lots of them live on the fringes of the Empire.

Transported are only supposed to be convicted criminals, but the amount of labor needed in the Colony has created a thriving secondary market for "off-brand" Transported.

Half-orcs are strong and tough, making them more dangerous than standard prisoners.

So now the party has to transport 50 or so angry half-orcs a hundred miles through fairly dangerous forests and deposit them in the same sort of logging camp they LITERALLY just rescued 50 people from. Irony is fun.

Now, this is a really important DM tip: if you set up a scenario, don't get at all tied to YOUR solutions. Just sit back and see what your players come up with.

In this case, one of the players is a half-orc, so make friends is the answer. They spent hundreds of sp getting them blankets, food and clothes, and promised to free them from the logging camp after delivery. The prisoners were suspicious, so Wrenaldo, the half-orc in question, accepted their offer to temporarily join the coffle and get rescued with the rest of them.

Happy day! At least for me. Not sure they're going to enjoy this.

Monday, October 17, 2016

D&D With Kids: Into the Northern Wilderness

D&D with Kids! Session 1: Adventures in the Northern Wilderness.

The daughter and nephews are now all old enough to play D&D. So the 7, 9 and 14-year olds sat down with me on the weekend to play full-on 5e for the first time.

We made characters first. The oldest played a Dragonborn Noble Fighter named Kriv, the younger nephew played his old character, a Wood Elf Rogue named Adrak, who used to be a librarian, and my daughter created a Human Druid who was raised by wolves named Foxy.

The game started with Adrack finding an old book that described a hidden temple in the Great Northern Forest that supposedly contained a great treasure. He recruited Kriv and Foxy to go with him to recover the treasure.

The group left from Port Tanner on the Black River and headed north to Shale Pass, the only route through the northern mountains.

They decided not to travel on the road, and Foxy's skill in the forest led them easily through the wilds. On the 3rd day, they encountered and Owlbear trying to raid a wolf den. The party helped the wolves defeat the Owlbear, then Foxy healed the wolves (and Kriv), and cast Animal Friendship on the alpha female. The female detached a young male (quickly named Scruffy) to accompany the new member of the pack and make sure she didn't get into trouble. They also got an Owlbear pelt.

The following day they encountered a camp of the Ulthar tribe, locals who proved friendly. They traded the Owlbear fur for some amber necklaces, and when Leos, the leader, offered them work, they took it. Apparently a huge beast-man has been attacking Ulthar hunters, and Leos offered them more amber to kill it.

They were guided first to the Ulthar village, then to the valley containing the lair of the creature. A critical success on Foxy's scouting roll meant they discovered the creature (a Yeti) came to the same spot each night to drink from a stream, so the group set up an ambush.

Using Kriv's high strength, they positioned a boulder above the pool, then Foxy and Adrak worked together to track down a mountain goat, which they killed and placed as bait.

When the Yeti came down to drink, it was lured under the rock by the goat, but the plan almost failed when Kriv couldn't move the rock. Adrak raced to his aid, and they dropped the boulder on the Yeti, then quickly finished it off before it could get back up.

They then plundered the Yeti's cave, finding some jewelry and a magical pendant (a Periapt of Wound Closure). They also found a strange engraving far back in the cave, a map leading to "the gates of Karak-Norn".

Returning to the Ulthar village, they got more amber in payment, and also got more jewelry made by the tribe, a spiked collar for Scruffy and Yeti-horn and tooth necklaces. The shaman identified the pendant for them, and they learned that the mountain shown on the map was about 3 days travel east.

The party decided to check out the map location instead of continuing through the pass to the temple. They travelled to a mountain pass where they discovered and opened the gate to Karak-Norn, an ancient dwarven city.

They explored into Karak-Norn, encountered and handily beat some goblins, and we called it for the day. They all leveled up, and fun was agreed to have been had. Then my daughter and the younger nephew headed off to the basement to continue to play make-believe as their characters.


Things I learned:
1. Simplify the character sheets. I used simple 5e sheets and they worked OK. None of the kids are super readers/writers yet, due to age and some learning disability, but they are good enough if you make things simple.

2. I'll be adding spell cards, animal form cards and probably equipment cards to the game for the next session. Should make it easier for everyone.

3. When making characters, if kids are having trouble picking, let them flip through the Players Handbook until they find something they like, then make that. Iris liked the female druid on page 67. Art directors, take note.

4. Framing choice of action and possible benefits/repercussions is CRITICAL. Kids can easily make decisions if you spell out the possible results of different courses of action. Give them a reasonable number of options and their sagacity will surprise you.

5. Give them help. I added Scruffy the wolf to the group so I could have a kinda-sorta DM PC, but not one they could ask for advice. He warns them of dangerous situations by growling or showing reluctance, which makes them thing about what they are doing.

6. Go with it. If it's fun for them to spend half an hour designing jewelry for the local tribesfolk to make them, that's a good use of time. Further, have them draw the jewelry on their character sheet.

7. Be generous and kind. More magic items are good. Levelling is very good. Their plans succeeding is awesome. Listening to them tell their grandparents about their characters and the game is immensely rewarding.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Good Deeds - A Shadowrun Story

The slipstream of the 20-trailer road train ripped at me, roaring like a dragon, trying to claw the bike under the churning wheels. With a mental pulse, I gave the Rapier more gas, surging through the spray and accelerating past the 1000 ton automated monster. Slashing rain and lights blurred together to turn the highway into a surging river of color that the bike and I flowed down, darting through the currents of the traffic like a black and chrome fish.

Up above 200 mph, you don’t steer so much as flow. Any mistakes will result in near instant destruction, titanium bones notwithstanding. It’s an interesting place to be, but I don’t indulge like this very often. Risk, like any other drug, needs to be taken in measured doses. OD’ing on danger kills you just as dead as heroin.

As you leave Seattle and begin to enter the Barrens, the streetlights start to go out. Not all at once, but gradually, like stars dying, leaving just the ribbon of red taillights. A stream running red, out into the void. I’m starting to slow down, the manic edge of speed and risk fading away as I merge back into the flow. Running with the river, instead of skittering through and around it.

The call light on my HUD starts to blink. It’s Oscar. Sooner than I expected. That’s good, though, it meant everything on the old man’s side went smoothly. It’s also useful information. I suspected that Oscar had any mention of my name routed to his office, but now I know for sure.

I ease my bike off the road, onto a darkened plaza that once held a gas station and restaurant. The lights are dead, like the place, like the Barrens around it. Now it’s just a ruined island lit only by the sweeping lights of the red river, flowing past. This call might take a while. Oscar has questions, just like usual.

Keying the line open, I keep it casual, pretending - like we both don’t know what the call is about - that this is a normal conversation.

“Hey, Oscar, what’s up?”

“Gwydion.” Oscar’s voice is flat. He sounds annoyed. “Could you possibly explain why I just had to pull an extremely upset Vietnamese teenager out of a Customs & Immigration interrogation room?”

“Is she Vietnamese? I thought maybe she was Thai. I’m really terrible at picking out what flavor of southeast asian people are.”

“I’m trying to imagine why you thought that telling her to mention your name during her Immigration interview was a good idea. I’m coming up blank so far. Enlighten me?”

“Well, obviously I can’t help her through Immigration myself, what with all the… business. So, I thought, who’s the second-best person to do that? It seemed obvious that you would be a good choice.”

“So instead of just calling me and asking, you just put your name out there, so that she’d get hauled into a special briefing room and I’d get woken up at two AM? That’s the special Gwydion Peterson we all know and love. Causing shit for the sake of causing shit.”

“Hey now, I was doing a good deed. She needed help.”

“If that’s your version of a good deed, spare me from your fucking bad ones.”

Oscar was calming down. The flat, hard notes were fading from his voice, replaced with his usual weary resignation. Or maybe he just sounds that way when he’s talking to me.

“She’s a bit hysterical right now, since she thought she was going to be denied entrance to the Tir, so I thought maybe you could tell me what the fuck?”

“Well, sir, therein lies a tale.”

“Oh fuck. You set this all up so that you could tell me a story? So that I’d ASK YOU TO TELL ME A STORY!”

“Hey, elves are natural storytellers. We have the lyrical blood of ancient musicians in our veins. We’re like, natural bards, Oscar.”

“Fuck. Fuckety fuck. I cannot believe I fell for this.”

“I know, right? Now settle down, I’m telling a story here.”

“You owe me for this, Gwydion.”

“I was going to owe you either way, but this way is more interesting. Now shush, I’m storytelling.”


The guy was old, and I thought, Thai, or something. I’m terrible at Asians, which is ridiculous, since I’ve lived for decades in the Pacific Northwest. You can take a guy out of Texas…

He was old, and also didn’t speak too much English. Normally he’d have a nephew or something to translate for him while he sat back and looked mysterious, but I guess he was in a hurry, because he did the meeting all by his lonesome.

From what we could tell, it seems as if the local Triads had snatched this girl. The elf girl, for reasons that were obvious to anyone with a brain, and really disturbing to anyone with any imagination. Asian old man #2 was apparently a local fixer of some sort, because he’d managed to scrape together some nuyen from other people in the neighborhood, including, presumably, the parents, and threw up a post on a ‘runner forum, hoping for a miracle.

And, as it turned out, he got one. Because, seriously, he didn’t have enough nuyen to just straight buy the girl back, and he sure as shit didn’t have enough nuyen to actually hire anybody halfway competent enough to go up against Triads and actually survive.

But like I said, he got a miracle, in the form of one Gwydion Peterson - knight-errant in shining… well, mostly black, armor. Now, I’m not usually one for good deeds, but the girl was an elf, and you can’t just have people targeting elves. That sets a bad fucking precedent. So I decided to take the job pro-bono, as it were. I mean, we still took the money, but I used it to pay the other guys. Probably I could have handled this on my own, but help often means the margin between something risky and something flat stupid.

Lymol Million
The other two that answered the post were Johnny, who I’d worked with before, and was pretty much
crazy enough to want to pull a stunt like this, and a woman name Lymiol, who I hadn’t met. Lymiol you might want to look into. She had a Leelo-kinda vibe going on. She seems to have a ton of top-line ‘ware, she’s geared up and armed to the teeth, but man, she’s a bit cloudy in the old headspace. Anyway, she also agreed to forgo her share of the extremely modest pie, which was great, but also a bit weird, seeing as she had no dog in the fight, as far as I can tell.

The Triads were holding the girl in a restaurant that was a front for their other business. There was a front entrance and a basement garage entrance through an attached parkade. Basic surveillance turned up quite a bit of security, so we decided to splurge and hired a decker to ease the entry, as it were.

We got a fellow called Cable, who seemed a bit squirrely to actually take on a ‘run, but was confident that he could handle a remote attack on the security system. He had good references, and he came in under budget, so he got the gig.

I decided to go in through the garage, and to do it early in the morning. With Cable to deal with security, it seemed like the faster route, as we figured the girl was being held on the lower level. We figured Johnny would boost one of the Triad vehicles and disable the others while Leelo Bajillion and I did a hard entry and got the girl.

We had Cable cut the lights and open the garage doors, and Leelo and I went in fast and hard. Leelo had this submachine gun and just went in fucking blazing. Oh, and she showed up for the run in full combat armor. In downtown Seattle. On a weeknight. Like I said, a bit cloudy, but handy to hide behind.

So yeah, she started blazing away and hit absolutely nothing. But the Triad guys really focused on her. Luckily, they weren’t liking the dark or all the sudden gunfire, and they didn’t hit shit. I came in right behind her, and made my second mistake of the run. The first is that I should have led the entry with a concussion grenade, but I figured the sudden darkness would throw them more than it did.

The second mistake was that I headshot the closest Triad, but what I should have done is popped the one over by the door where the girl was being held, because that asshole promptly slammed the door. Like I said, mistake. But luckily Leelo was busily exchanging fire with the other two surviving Triad guys, so I took the opportunity to try and get that door open.

This is when I made the third mistake. I should have just shoulder-charged the door, but like a dumbass I tried the handle. Got it slammed in my face again for my trouble, and then the fucker locked it. I put a couple of rounds into the door, but Leelo got bored after taking out one of the Triads and winging the other, and decided to do a hair-on-fire full-auto charge through the door.

Which… worked. I had to step pretty fucking lively to avoid getting a bullet enema, but the door came right apart and she went through it like an NFL linebacker. She caught a bullet for her trouble, but nothing fatal, luckily. Those Triad guys were responding on full-auto by this point.

I killed him, too. I’ve never liked wasting ammo, personally. Then we got the girl and got out. Whole thing took maybe 30 seconds. By the time we were back, Johnny had a fancy Triad car ready to go and we hit the road.

The old man said that he was going to send the girl on to the Tir, so I gave her some travel money and my card, and told her to drop my name. You know the rest.

“Gwydion, you are a crazy asshole, but you did a good thing here.”

“I know, right? It was interesting, and I feel pretty OK about how it all turned out. Can you make sure she’s set up? I’d hate for all that ammo that Leelo used to be wasted.”

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Sometimes, it's too Important for Voice Mail

The crosswind was really starting to act up when the phone call icon popped up on my implant hud. Constance. At 2 AM. On a Wednesday.

With a sigh, I subvocally activated the vidphone pop-up, partially obscuring the rain-splattered roof of the Aztecnology helipad far below. Constance was, predictably, not looking too happy.

“Where the fuck are you?” she asked, crossing her arms.

“Umm..” I considered telling her that I was 40 stories off the ground on the outside of a very upscale hab tower, staring through my implants at the location where a very off-book Thunderbird was about to land some very-very off-book passengers.

I considered also mentioning that the crosswind was adding to the considerable load on the grapple line and making steady sighting dicey, not to mention threatening to blow me off the side of the building.

After some contemplation, I decided to go with “At work.”

“Seriously? How stupid do you think I am? You expect me to believe that the shitty little corp you work for has you out at 2 AM on a Wednesday? For the money they pay you?”

So. The booty call had not worked out the way she’d expected, and now she was trying to figure out if I was cheating on her. Just what the doctor ordered to make this run more interesting.

The lashing wind forced me to adjust my footing, boot treads barely keeping me braced and stable on the sheer glass side of the hab tower. Glancing up, I saw faint lights from the approaching Thunderbird.

“Listen, Constance, this is really not the best time..”

“Who is she, you asshole? Is it that blue-haired minge you were chatting up at the museum opening? I TOOK YOU TO THAT EVENT, YOU PRICK.”

Normally I like looking at Constance, even when she’s mad. Hell, especially when she’s mad. But the Thunderbird - black against the black storm and black glass of the hab towers, was coming down now. With a mental flick, I minimized her image to a blinking green icon and switched to thermodynamic vision, zooming in on the helipad far below.

“I’m not cheating on you, Constance,” I replied, keeping my breathing calm and bracing the familiar weight of the rifle against my shoulder. Range, ammo indicators, windspeed all whipped up on my hud, framing the digitally enhanced helipad with information.

“Likely story. I swore after the last elf that I was just going to date safe, boring humans. You’re worse than tom-cats, all of you. Put on the tridee, you prick. I want to see your face.”

“I’m on my bike, Constance, I’ve got you on the datajack.”

The Thunderbird landed, rotors hammering the pooled water on the pad into a fine mist, swirling around the figures as they debarked. The numbers displayed a rapidly degrading targeting situation. Rain pelted against me as the crosswind howled, slipping off the surface of my eye-shields. Now or never.

“First you’re working, now you’re on your bike? Which is it, Gwydion? I’m serious, you need to stop lying to me, or we’re done here!”

Thermographic showed three shapes getting out of the thunderbird, pixelated against the rain and hurricanes of spray. There. The second one, only partially showing a heat signature. “Target has extensive cybernetics on right side of body.”


“No, sweetheart, just traffic is a bit fucked out here, having to pay attention.”

Letting the smartgun targetting reticle rest on the head of the second figure, I pause. Heavy cyberwear on the right side. Let him turn his head and glance around, just like a military background teaches.

Now. Recoil. Implants dampening the muted crack of the shot. That familiar feeling of a bullet going just exactly where it’s supposed to go. Collapsing the hud, zooming back and flipping back to regular vision, even as the figure on the helipad crumples. Time to go.

“I’m on my way back home. We finished up a little while ago. I can meet you someplace, if you want.”

The grapple line whirls, dropping me towards the elevated parking garage far below. On the helipad, the bodyguards are just drawing their weapons, starting to scan the surrounding area, but I’m on a different face of the building now, descending quickly.

“You’re asking me out, after cheating on me? That’s pretty gutsy, even for you, Gwydion.”

Touching down on the roof of the garage, I call up my account balance. Not the boring corp striver one, the other one, in the offshore datahaven. The interesting one. Looks like everything is good to go there, payment came through.

“I’m not cheating on you Constance, why the hell would I cheat on the most interesting lady I know?
Besides, you’d murder me if I did that to you.”

“You’re fucking right I would. With a knife.”

“I know that. Listen, how about that new Tir-sushi place you were talking about? The one with the hologram walls and waterfalls. My treat.”

I bring Constance back up as I pack up the rifle into it’s case. Hands moving automatically, no attention required. She looks happier. A bit.

“Alright, but if you smell like some 10-nuyen slut when I get there, I’m going to drown you in one of those waterfalls. After I cut off your balls.”

“Sounds fair. I’ll meet you there in 20 minutes?”

“You better not be late.”

“I’d rather fall off a building.”

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

There is a Place Where it is Never Warm

There is a place where it is never warm.  Cast in shadow by glacier-fringed granite peaks, slashed by freezing winds and hammered by icy seas, the Frozen Shore is a place of cold and death for most creatures.  Only the frozen citadel of Atlantis, carved from the base of a towering glacier, ever shows signs of life.

Gods can live and die many times, rising from the dust to answer the calls of their followers.  This is known.  What is less known is that the bones of gods, unlike other bones, do not wear away.  They are not devoured by insects, rodents or time.  Like the seas, they are eternal, and the seas claim them all eventually.

But the bones of gods, like magical rings, have too much weight for the sea to hold them forever, so the bones are washed up onto the Frozen Shore, where the Atlantean servants of the Angakoks pick among the frozen tangles for necromantic treasure.  On most days, the Frozen Shore is a quiet, desolate place; the moaning wind and crashing waves are the only sounds.  

Today, the shore echoes with unusual noise.  The massive ice citadel accreted on the slopes of the cliffs is under siege by hundreds of wolfskin-clad warriors, crossbowmen and armored warriors.  Fires burn along the upper slopes of the beach, and the smashing roar of the attacks drowns even the pounding of the ceaseless waves.  

As the attackers form up to assault the frozen gates, massive blue-skinned figures appear on the battlements, throwing down chunks of ice and stone.  Smaller, fun-clad figures move among them, throwing javelins and icy spears.  Whirling gusts of wind, moving as if guided, toss many of the missiles away, but the rocks and ice fall among the attackers, driving them back.  Still, the huge gates have taken damage, and the attackers begin massing for another assault.

As the fur-clad ranks of the attackers draw together, something seems to ripple along the line.  Perhaps it is a change in the sound of the waves, or of the howling of the wind, but whatever it is, their beast-sharp senses pick it up.  They begin to turn, fixing their eyes on the sea and the long bone-covered strand.

Suddenly, the breakers shiver and fall apart, revealing glittering ice rising beneath the water.  Hundreds of helmets break the surface of the water, ice-white shield rims appearing beneath them as legions of Atlantean warriors wade onto the beach. On the flanks of the huge blocks of ice-clad warriors are other Atlanteans, smaller, clad in armor of polished coral and with shields of polished turtleshell and long coral-tipped spears.  

Among the ice-clad heavy infantry tower other figures, huge Atlanteans in sleek sealskin with staves carved from the bones of gods.  Atlanteans never cease growing, learning, hungering, and the Angakoks are the largest, wisest and hungriest of the Atlanteans, priest-mages in service to the Unturned Stone, god of Atlantis.

With a deep, croaking cry, the Atlantean host leaves the sea and begins crashing forward, like a wave carved from glittering ice, over the bones that the sea cannot swallow.  Conch-horn trumpets moan and whaleskin drums thunder as the force moves towards the assembled Midgard army.   As they move, the ice that coats the rocks and bones of the beach begins to shudder, then rises into tall, jagged humanoid forms, surging forward to attack.

Howling, the wolfskin-armored skinshifters rush forward, and lightning begins crashing down from the sky, smashing into the Atlantean formations, but the bolts are few, too few, and the icy ranks of the warriors flow forward into the Midgard line.

The savage initial impact of the skinshifter charge hammers at the ranks of the Atlanteans, but the ice armor and frozen shields, tempered to diamond hardness by the cold, turns aside even the massive blades of the skinshifters.  Then the frozen swords begin to slash out, and the shifters begin to die.  Frenzied, they throw aside blades and humanity, transforming into massive, ravening wolfmen, but teeth and claws have no more effect on the frozen armor than swords did, and still the ice blades rise and fall.

In the center of the line, a column of bone-armored atlanteans, armed with heavy bone glaives, chops a hole in the Midgard line.  With a billow of frozen air, a dozen black-armored wights, necrotic blades in hand, push through the gap, slashing aside the frozen Midgarders.  Even the winter-born skinshifters flinch back from the inhuman cold of the wights.

With a wave, the Vanir lord calls forward his reserves, throwing them forward to plug the hole.  The howling mass leaps into the teeth of the cold and the slashing glaives to close the gap, but the wights shrug off blows, and the wounds on the glaive-wielding atlanteans close with unnatural speed.  For a few moments, the lines waver, but then the Elementals, living ice powered by the will of the Angakoks, strike.

Clots of darkness seem to form over the battlefield.  On wings of darkness, shrieking Lammashtas, servants of the lords of Tartarus, descend, attacking skinshifter and atlantean alike.  Skeletal hands reach up from the ground, catching the legs of the embattled Midgarders, and from the flanks, lighter-armored atlanteans and more of the bone-armored Assartuts close in.

Suddenly, it is over.  The Midgard line breaks apart, some fleeing up the beach, others, too frenzied to see the rout unfolding, stay and fight.  Neither reaction makes any difference.  For a time, the frozen mountains ring with shrieks and slaughter, until finally, the only sounds are the wind and the waves...

Akutturat, First Angakok, stood on the outcrop of ice overlooking the beach and watched the little brothers feed.  Weary from spellcasting, he leaned on his god-bone staff and enjoyed the bite of the frozen wind and lash of the icy sea spray.

Malanakut, Commander of the Ice Guard approached, ducking his frozen helmet to show reverence as he neared the First.

“Losses?” inquired Akatturat, as he continued to gaze out at the blood-soaked bones of the beach.

“Minimal, First.” replied Malanakut, keeping his head low.  “None escaped.”

“Excellent.  Well done.  Your battle strategy is to be commended.”

“Thank you First.  We have re-opened the citadel, and the siege is lifted.  Those within are in good condition, and the army will be ready to march soon.”

Akutturat gaped his jaws in elation, showing the rows of razor-sharp teeth lining his mouth.

“Feed the fallen to the little brothers and elder brothers.  Strip their bones and cast them upon the shore as an offering to Mother-sea and to the Unturned Stone.  Freeze their naked skulls into the Watching Wall, so they can watch the sea and stone until the end of the age.”

Feeling his exhaustion fall away, Akutturat turned from the sea and stared up the valley.  “The spear-wielding men and their elephants have broken our treaty.  We shall kill them and cast their bones upon the shore, and I will eat the heart of their goddess myself.”

Friday, February 20, 2015

D&D 5E Session Summary: Clearwater Mill

This post is by special guest author and player of Hilbo Huggins, +J Malfair.

We will pick things up at Rivercrest - A walled Forest Gnome community along the Clearwater River.   There are a small number of farms outside of the town but the gnomish town looks to have seen better days.   Having said that it's still up and running and fighting for survival.

We're welcomed into the town and their mayor Burgles invites us into his home.  We accept and we settle into a lengthy conversation.

We find out what we can about Clearwater Mill (where the Splinterbeards are from) and he lets us know that the dwarves came down this way several years before but he hasn't really heard from dwarves since.

For the past year or two the water has been polluted by something upstream, they dont wash from it or drink it but it's terrible.  

He lets us know about Orc and refugee camp issues (bandits and such) that are happening to the north east of Rivercrest.  The refugees near Blingenstone evidently have things pretty rough right now and it's pretty much anarchy up there. 

He is interested in forming a trade relationship with GoldenHills and with Leagrove.  We are amenable to talking about it and favor the idea but we need to deal with things back home first before we suggest anything specific.  The gnomes have a lot of wool and wood that would be useful and lack metal or good tools.

He gives assigns one of his scouts to us to guide us as safely as possible up to the old dwarven hold at
Gammin, Gnome Scout
Clearwaters Mill.  So make our way up through the hills and mountains, guided by our suitably able guide.   He brings us into view of the entrance and when we're there we can see those Giant things with the big eye and several smaller ogre type creatures milling aorund near the entrance.   There are carts full of reddish snow that have been drawn down the hill.   The front entrance looks to be pretty well defended.

We have scout show us around to the top entrance and we find a place to climb down that isn't nearly as visible to the guards.   We do so and we enter the old Splinterbeard hold.

We fight come upon a room where there is a giant overseeing two ogres throwing the red snow into the river.  We have a brisk fight, Sly uses magic to push the two ogres into the waters below and the rest of us chop up the giant in a spirited affair :)     The snow appears to be snow with a number of pollutants that are extremely disgusting in it.   It's pretty clear why the river is polluted if they're throwing this shit into it.

We continue on and find ourselves at in the temple complex of the halls.   Our goal is to find proof of the Splinterbeard duplicity so we go about trying to find evidence. 

We see a number of reliefs and carvings of Moradin in his aspect of the 'the keeper of secrets' but the murals are all odd in that they have a number of non dwarven or abnormal influences on them.  Vines and such which do not normally appear in them.  (noted by everyone especially Korrum).

We enter the temple proper where we find 3 acolytes in robes (insane and broken dwarves) and a rather menacing fellow who orders them to attack.   In a fairly painful encounter we manage to down the Barbarian and the acolytes taking one of the acolytes prisoner.   (we question him and ask him a tonne of questions - please see email chain from last week- we did the questioning between sessions)
The Erlking
The short version :
        The Splinterbeards turned to the Erlking a dark fey who showed them the secrets that Moradin would not.
        The Erlking is coming (this came up a lot)
         The Erlking is what's infecting the rivers/forests and directing everything here
         The Erlking will kill us

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Dwarves! 5E: Session Summary - Jailbreak Episode 1

This was a big session, so I split it into 2 parts:

The jailbreak is a classic trope, and it’s usually a fun one.  Putting the players in a situation where they are at a disadvantage, and have to juggle stealth, timing and speed in an environment specifically designed to hinder them.

So when we left off last time, the party was in the custody of the Splinterbeard clan, acting (allegedly) on behalf of King Ironhammer, and were being transported to the king’s private dungeon.
The party decided that it was too risky to make a move while being transported, so they hung tight while during the trip.  They were marched underground, first along the major tunnel between High Grass and Goldenhills Hall, but then turning south under the mountains on the southern edge of Goldenhills territory.  Luckily, Korrum’s background is as an Underdark Guide, so he was able to get a good idea of where they are.

The trip ended at an unremarkable section of corridor.  The escort moved a concealed panel of stone aside, revealing a narrow stairwell.  The guards hustled the party through a small complex of rooms, clearly barracks of some sort, then into a room with a heavy stone slab, raised by a heavy winch and pulley.  Under the slab was another narrow stairway, leading further down.

The lower level proved to be a series of circular rooms, joined by narrow corridors.  The guards
escorted them to one of the circular rooms with a 5’ hole in the floor.  They lower a rope ladder and down the party goes, into the dark. The dark proves to be a dirt-floored cell – beehive-shaped and about 20 feet deep, with the access hole at the very top.

But these are CHARACTERS, so they don’t sit there very long.  Well, for a while.  Couple of hours or so.  Just to let things quiet down.  Then Wanderer, who has managed to keep a dagger, some thieves tools AND his magical chain (change self and sleight of hand are wonderful), is on the case.  A very brief session of lockpicking results in everyone out of their shackles.  From there, it’s a matter of getting up to the top of the hole.

They decide on a Hilbo-assisted jump-launch – which goes somewhat awry.  Wanderer’s luck and dexterity keep him from crunching on the stone ceiling, and he manages to catch the lip of the hole.  He rolls out, and quickly discovers that there are several guards close by, and manages to get out of line of sight before he is spotted.

Using one of the magical powers of his enchanted chain, Wandered slips into the Fey and slides around the guards into another corridor.  He finds more locked doors and sees an odd-looking metal wall at the far end of one corridor.  Deciding that continued exploration is risky, he goes full Changeling.

Shifting himself to look like one of the guards that brought them down to the dungeon, he turns right around and walks into guard chamber.  Slickly convincing the guards that he’s been sent down to get a rope ladder, he strolls into the guardroom, gets a rope ladder and goes back over to the hole where the rest of the party are trapped.  Critical success on Deception rolls are handy.

However, the hole is still in direct sight of one guard, who is himself in direct sight of two other guards, so Wanderer has more thinking to do….  Illusions are your friend here.  Wanderer steps out of sight, creating an illusion of “himself” falling over into the pit.  Inspired.  A guard comes to help, and gets kicked into the pit.  Wanderer (still looking like a guard himself) motions the third guard over, and Slie (from in the pit) starts shouting “I’m OK, but I need help getting out” and doing a damn fine job of sounding like the first guard.

The third guard turns his back on Wanderer and takes a dagger in the throat for being dumb, and shortly thereafter (aided by a Silence spell from Korrum and a nasty shot with a hand crossbow by Wanderer) there are 4 dead guards and no alarm raised.

So now the party really gets into it.  They liberate their gear, find a number of imprisoned servants who inform them that the King is maybe insane, and has imprisoned them for “trying to poison me,”  “plotting to murder me,” and “stealing the thoughts from my brain”.  They also release an elven Expeditionary from Leagrove, who has been missing for 6 months and a dwarf, Dorren Eigar, apparently a cousin of their friend Khidre.  Wanderer notices that Dorren’s “street clothes”, which they found in a chest near their own equipment, conceals considerable hardware in the form of hidden daggers, garrotes and poisoned darts.

Next up: Guards!  Guards!