Monday, October 31, 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

Paragons of Waterdeep: Sessions 9 & 10

At the end of Session 8, the party had just emerged from the sinister depths of a ruined temple, having defeated the evil being that dwelled there. Before they had a chance to regroup after their flight, a mysterious figure addressed them, saying “Welcome back, friends.”

The cloaked figure introduced himself as Doomguide Abelurd, a cleric of Kelemvor, the current god of death. The group discussed the recent events in the High Forest with Abelurd, who told the party that he was lured to the region due to strong emanations of undeath. Kelemvor abhors undeath, seeing it as an invasion upon his domain. In this Abelurd and the Lathanderite cleric Oisin found common ground, albeit from differing motivations.
From information imparted by the group and the location of the ruined temple, Abelurd surmised the possible identity of the being the group had just defeated. He told them they may have encountered a man named Ungotha, who had been a cleric of Myrkul centuries before, when the temple had still been active. Legends stated that Ungotha had turned to the worship of Velsharune, god of undeath, betraying his vows to Myrkul.
It was then that the elven wizardess Tanara awakened. She told the group that she had attempted to open the cave portal to Waterdeep through which the party had arrived days before, but was unable to do so. After that attempt, she decided to investigate the temple, and was overcome by the malevolent power there. She confirmed that the evil being in the temple had called himself Ungotha. There was no longer any doubt that Ungotha had made some pact with Velsharune to attain some sort of undead state.
It was then that the group noticed that Milo the rogue had disappeared (conveniently, since his player Jamie was not able to attend Session 9 ;-). A quick search of the area by Kale the elven ranger discovered his tracks, heading north.
It was decided that Tanara and Abelurd would head southeast to Evereska, the last major elven city on the continent. Tanara revealed that she is from that city. Now that the mystery of the portal stone and the location of Kurthrad’s tower was clarified, she felt it was time to return home and discuss her findings with her peers. Once she was ready to return to investigate the tower again, she would seek out the party’s assistance.
As for Abelurd, he said that his temple is located in the city of Westgate, far to the east on the Sea of Fallen Stars. He had decided to entreat his god to search for the spirit of Ungotha, and so doing gain confirmation of the vile necromancer-priest’s final demise.
The centaur NPC Narcoth volunteered to take the dwarf warrior Murzod’s body back to Mithral Hall. He then headed off to the northeast to find the rest of the party of dwarves that had gone on ahead.
This left the remaining party—Oisin, Kale, Keseim, and the elven fighter Otiver (NPC) to decide their next move. They chose to seek out Milo while they headed after Kale’s clan, in order to rejoin her people as they moved westward.
Kale lost Milo’s trail at a river, and while searching for it the party was attacked by bugbears. After making short work of the foul folk (C&C rangers are especially deadly against humanoids!), they rested for the night. They set off early the next morning, once Kale finally rediscovered Milo’s trail.
After hours of travel, the trail turned abruptly north into the depths of the High Forest. The party warily entered the trees. Keseim cast detect magic, and spotted emanations about 30 feet up a tree. As they cautiously approached, a huge winged form burst from the canopy above. It was a harpy, and it descended upon them in a fury. As the party fell into battle, a second harpy joined the fray. This second creature began to sing an eerie dirge, which most of the part was able to resist…except for the wizard Keseim! He was overwhelmed with the urge to climb a nearby tree in order to get closer to the harpies.
The rest of the group was able to kill the harpies. Keseim, no longer enchanted, continued to climb the tree to discover Milo tied with vines to a stout limb. The magic Keseim had detected had come from the magical dagger Milo had found in the ruined temple.
Milo was freed and the group enjoyed a short reunion before continuing onward. They rode hard across rough terrain, and by nightfall they reached the last location of Kale’s vo’an. The group made camp and settled in for the night. It was during Kale’s watch that she began to smell the scent of rot nearby. She woke the group to investigate. They finally noticed several sacks tied high up in some trees surrounding the campsite. Cutting down the sacks, they group found they contained the mutilated and dismembered bodies of elves. Kale recognized them as members of her clan.
Kale was familiar with the use of dead bodies to lure creatures in the High Forest. Someone (probably her clan’s sworn enemies, the Autumn Blades clan) had created an ambush. This tactic worked, as the group was suddenly attacked by a wyvern. A protracted and difficult fight ensued, but they were able to drive off the beast.
The next morning, Oisin used a spell to speak with the spirit of one of the slain elves. The spirit confirmed that they were indeed slain by Autumn Blades, and also told Oisin that a large force of Autumn Blades were pursuing Kale’s vo’an. This motivated the party to quickly resume their westward journey, in the hope of reuniting with the vo’an before the elves were overrun by their enemies.
During their rush to gain ground, the party barely avoided riding into an ambush set by a small force of Autumn Blade elves. They group decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and decided to avoid confronting a larger group of foes. Oisin cast a darkness spell over the party, and they rode onward. Since Oisin was the only one in the group able to see out of the darkness, he guided them as best he could verbally. There were a few close calls where PCs almost toppled from their horses, but the party was able to elude their pursuers (though Keseim was struck a grazing blow by one of many arrows that were shot by the Autumn Blades despite the darkness spell).
They group then encounter two of Kale’s fellow rangers, Karis and Aravel, who confirmed that the Spring Dawn clan was indeed being harried by the Autumn Blades. The group moved onward and finally reunited with the vo’an.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Preparing for a Hunt for the Roots

Sorry if I sounded a bit melodramatic in my post yesterday about Gamer ADD, and how I'm "burning out" with regard to the amount of RPG material I've been reading of late. That's really what it was all about: me coming to the realization that I've been obsessively reading RPG rulebooks and accessories, to the point that I've been neglecting my other interests. It's also causing my brain to fry from all the information overload, and causing my mind to wander into all the possible future games I may someday run/play in.

Now, it's okay for me to be reading through my Castles & Crusades stuff on a regular basis. Because I'm running a C&C game that's been providing me and some great players with a fantastic bit of adventure! I'm really proud of our group and how we work really well together, and we're having a great time.

But in between all of that C&C research and game prep, I've been reading Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry, the Rules Cyclopedia, B/X D&D, Barbarians of Lemuria, Conan the RPG, Talislanta, Dragon Age RPG, The One Ring RPG, OpenQuest, and others that I can't even remember at the moment.

And then add in my desire to read through the blogs that I follow, which I think is totally worth it (but again it takes up time and my limited brain space!). I also want to comment on people's posts and write my own posts. More time and brain space.

Add to that the fact that I've also been reading up on settings for Pathfinder, Blackmarsh, Points of Light, Greyhawk, Lankhmar, Elric!/Stormbringer, Earthdawn, Warhammer, Eberron, and on and on. And reading a bunch of modules, those from TSR, Goodman Games, Troll Lord Games, Paizo, Expeditious Retreat, etc. AND also bugging Newt Newport about Crypts & Things. AND bugging James at Grognardia about his Dwimmermount stuff.

So, can you see why I've been feeling burnt?! I've inundated myself, saturated myself with gaming stuff. To the point that I've completely stalled on my other great love: reading. Reading novels, and non-fiction.

In particular, it's taking me FOREVER to read Martin's A Dance with Dragons. Most people I know have already read it. Heck, one of my best friends is well into his SECOND reading!

And I've also been unable to watch any of my beloved History channel shows that are piling up on the DVR (much to the wife's chagrin)!


Whew. OK. Seriously, I need some detox. I need to put the ton of stuff aside for now, and just take a breather. Take a rest. Focus. I need to really be thankful for what I currently have going on gaming-wise. The rest of the gaming stuff will be there when I'm ready. It will keep.

So, here's the plan (and the reason for the title of my post): I am going to finish A Dance with Dragons. Then, I am going to do something I've been meaning to do for a long time, but have been putting off for too long: I'm going to finally read through the tales of Vance, Howard, Leiber, Moorcock, Burroughs, and all the rest who represent the roots of D&D. Give me Appendix N or give me death!

And in between reading up on those seminal tales, I will be focusing my gamer attentions on my current campaign.

Then comes the blogosphere. Followed by some TV.

But of course, all of the above comes after work and family.

Whew. I feel better now. Onward!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Gamer ADD and Burn-Out

Hey folks! Just wanted to check in and ramble a bit. Been feeling a bit burnt over the last couple of days with regard to gaming. And I know why: Gamer ADD. I've let that hoary beast push my beleaguered brain to the edge of reason once again.

I will confront Gamer ADD and say "Ah yes, my old friend and enemy, I see you lurking over my shoulder. You're the cause of my unrelenting need to dig through my RPG book collection almost every night.

You push me to flip through all those pages and dream about campaigns that may never be. You make me obsess over thoughts of adventures yet to come.

You distract me from working on the campaign I am currently running...a living and breathing campaign with great players that depend on my ability to provide a fun and exciting experience almost every week. They are what's most important right now. Not you. Begone, I say! The power of St. Gygax compels you!"

Seriously, I am feeling like I need to strike back somehow at my old foe. I am feeling that I need to put away all the other books and stay away from them for a good while. I want to just carry around my Castles & Crusades books and the materials I am using for my current campaign. I don't want what I currently have going on to suffer at all due to my penchant for daydreaming about what could be.

I think I can do it. So, for the time being, until I am no longer feeling fried in the brain pan, I will gently put aside (for instance) my copies of Labyrinth Lord and Swords & Wizardry. Just for a while. And with them, I will put my embryonic thoughts of getting down to some Original/Basic/Classic D&D goodness on the shelf. I will set aside thoughts of race-as-class and all the other trappings. Just for a while. So the gray matter can cool down.

Though I am scared of what will happen when the PDF of Crypts & Things comes knocking...but I can't worry about that right now!

I need to do this for my peace of mind, and for the good of my actual gaming. No need to sacrifice the "what is" for the "what might be," right?

If you're out there reading this and you are feeling the Gamer ADD crunch at the moment, gimme an amen! Remind me that I'm not alone! I need the support right now!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Paragons of Waterdeep: Sessions 7 & 8

At the table for these two pivotal sessions were Wes and his Calishite wizard Keseim, Pam and her elven ranger Kale, Bill and his cleric of Lathander named Oisin, and Jamie’s rogue named Milo. We picked up where we left off at the end of Session 6, with the group back in a hidden glade high in the Star Mount range in the High Forest. The group had just returned through a portal from the location of an ancient tower that was once the dwelling of an elven wizard named Kurthrad, who called himself “The Artificer.” They had fought against some of the constructs that dwell in the tower: a bull-like abraxus that expelled deadly green gas and some animated suits of armor.

Their centaur NPC, Quiron, was poisoned by the abraxus’ noxious exhalations. They had dragged him back through the portal, but he lay unconscious, his breathing shallow and his skin a deathly pallor. Narcoth, the other centaur NPC, told the group that a warrior of their tribe should die by a weapon’s touch, not slowly fade into death. That would be dishonorable. So he told them that he would put an end to Quiron’s suffering, whether they agreed or not. Indeed, he would fight the party if they tried to stop him. The party said they would not interfere, so Narcoth went about the task of ending his fellow’s life, and, as befits the traditions of the centaur people, they would leave his body for Nature to reclaim.

Afterward, the group discussed their next move, and decided that they would need to soon return to the ruined temple of Myrkul and attempt to finish off the evil force within. But they knew they would need some help, and decided to attempt to find the group of dwarves from Mithral Hall that they had met in the High Forest.

They came down from the mountains, and as they headed northeast, some of the group (except for Kale) began to hear the faint sound of a woman’s voice. The voice seemed to come from everywhere, and they heard whimpering as well as the words “…temple…pain…” As they stopped in confusion, they spied a small form emerge from the High Forest: it was Murzod the dwarf, one of the dwarves they had decided to seek out. When he approached the group, he said that he had been journeying with his fellows to Mithral Hall when he began to hear a woman’s voice, and his feet turned of their own accord back toward the east. The call had been leading him in the general direction of the ancient temple to Myrkul, a place he had not been before. The group took this as a sign that their fates crossed paths at the site of the evil temple, so they moved in all haste to that dark place.

Once at the ruined temple, they headed inside with some hesitation and preparation. But they encountered nothing but bones of orcs, gnolls, and goblins. They toyed with the idea of opening the door inscribed with the words goblinoid words for “Bad Here,” but ultimately decided to pass it by. When they came to the room where they slew a goodly number of evil humanoids, including the gnoll chieftan Gritznak, they decided to break up the bones they found there in an effort to cripple any animated skeletons that might form from them. As they broke up the bones, that’s when the temple seemed to breathe. Then bones began to swirl around the room in a storm of sharp fragments. The party managed to avoid getting shredded and fled down the nearby staircase to the lower level of the temple.

They were greeted by a dark corridor lined with doors at the bottom of the steps. As they slowly advanced, torches in hand and listening at doors, they began to hear moaning from somewhere ahead…and then the skittering of claws. This was followed by someone suddenly wailing “Gods, they’re coming back! Please, save me, oh gods of mercy!”

The group cautiously rounded a corner to see a flayed man chained to the wall of the passage. The flesh of his torso was peeled back to reveal his organs, and yet he still lived. The sound of claws grew louder, until a ghoul came out of the darkness ahead to feast on the exposed entrails of the man, whose wails became screams (can you tell it’s close to Halloween? ;-). The group sprang into action as several more ghouls rounded the corner and rushed at the party. Some blows were struck against the creatures before Oisin the Lathanderite turned the ghouls, causing them to flee back into the darkness. The group tried to talk to the unfortunate man on the wall, but all he did was rave about once being a part of a traveling group of performers.

They continued down the corridor and discovered three more flayed yet still living people, also former members of a group of troubadours that were captured by the evil humanoids that served the power of the evil temple. They pressed on through the gauntlet of these tortured souls, encountering two giant skeletons that were created from the bones of many different creatures. Once again, Oisin exhorted Lathander to make the undead flee, and the god answered, sending the things running before the party’s advance. The group then made similar short work of another pack of ghouls, using swords, arrows, and flame (the old flaming lamp oil trick!).

Their resources almost spent, the group passed a nervous night in the depths of the temple. They were able to rest and regain some strength before pressing on. They discovered the desiccated corpses of what looked to be a party of adventurers. Among the bodies they found an amulet, a well-crafted wizard’s staff, and a beautifully-made dagger, all of which radiated strong magic.

The party moved on, and came to a massive door of black iron. The front of the door was crafted to resemble a writhing mass of nude male and female bodies. As they approached the door, five twisted dog-like creatures—yeth hounds—with slavering jaws passed through the door as if they were as insubstantial as ghosts. The party engaged in a desperate battle once more. The beasts were not undead, so Oisin could not turn them. Milo the rogue used his newly-acquired dagger to good effect. His attacks on the hounds were devastating, causing the flesh of the beasts to burn. At one point, one of the hounds began to howl, and supernatural fear descended upon the party. The group was able to shake off the effects of the fear, however, and after slaying several of the hounds (which, as extraplanar creatures, faded into nothingness once killed), this caused the remainder to flee. Then the party steeled themselves and pushed open the massive door before them.

They entered a large chamber that was lit by guttering torches in sconces. The vaulted ceiling was lost in darkness. Along the walls were six giant statues of Myrkul. As was the case with all the other statues in the temple, they were carved into the “Grim Reaper” visage of the former god of death. However, the faces of these statues had been smashed off. At the other end of the room was a large stone altar, upon which lay the bound and unconscious form of Tanara, the elven wizard. And beyond her, on a dais, sat a dark-robed figure. Two yeth hounds sat at its feet, gazing balefully at the party with burning red eyes.

The party readied themselves for battle once more, and advanced slowly into the chamber. As they did so, the cloaked being stood slowly and welcomed them to his lair. He told them that he would use their blood and bodies to aid in the finalization of his resurrection and the continued growth of his army of the undead. He gave praise to a god named Velsharune, the god of undeath (who was never a friend to the gods of death, especially the current death god, Kelemvor). Velsharune was the source of the mysterious being’s power. The robed figure declared that the birth of an undead empire on the face of Faerun would begin with the sacrifice of Tanara.

The party decided to attack as the hooded figure began to advance toward Tanara with a large ceremonial dagger. An epic battle ensued, in which the robed being commanded yeth hounds as well as animated shadows to attack the group. Kale the ranger had a shadow drain her of strength at one point. The robed being cast arcane spells, one of which enchanted Murzod, who promptly turned and attacked members of the party. In the chaos of battle, the elven warrior Otiver (an NPC and clansman of Kale) struck Murzod a blow from behind, wounding him.

But the party had the divine power of Lathander on their side in the form of Oisin, who was able to turn many of the shadows summoned by their cloaked antagonist. This enraged the strange being, who pulled back its hood to show a fleshless head that revealed wet musculature and lidless eyes. The being cursed the cleric Oisin and the god Lathander, renewing his magical attacks. He summoned up a poisonous fog to choke the group, and flung bolts of green energy at them. Several of these struck the wizard Keseim at one point, almost killing him (took him down into negative hit points, but the cleric acted quickly to heal the wizard).

Slowly, the group turned the tide of battle, working well in unison until only the fleshless being remained. At that point, their opponent drew out a wicked mace that ended in a spiked metal head shaped like a skull. Then, he shrouded himself in magical darkness, and advanced on the group. A mighty blow from that evil weapon slew Murzod. Milo was also struck a grazing blow, and the touch of the weapon caused him to go blind!

The party attacked from all sides, desperately trying to damage an opponent that they could not see. Finally, Oisin challenged the being directly, causing their enemy to react in anger. The robed being strode from the shadows to deal a blow to the cleric. But it was Oisin who landed a crushing strike (Player Bill rolled a clutch natural 20 at that moment!), and at the same time the centaur Narcoth also struck with his enchanted scimitar. This onslaught brought the battle to an end, slaying their foe.

In the aftermath, the group only had time to heal some of their wounds and gather up the body of Murzod. Then the temple began to shake violently. They rushed through the dark corridors in a frantic race to reach the exit before the temple collapsed in on itself. They were able to make it back to the surface just as the temple withdrew back into the ground. The group had just collapsed to the ground in exhaustion when a nearby voice said, “Welcome back, friends.” The party looked up to see a dark figure standing in the shadow of the nearby woods.

To be continued...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Have you ordered YOUR copy of C&T yet?

What? You haven't?! Well, then, you must go here immediately and do so! Come on, you know you want to. Everyone's doing it. Be one of us. One of us, one of us, ONE OF US, ONE OF US!

Alexis = NON-Stick in the Mud?!

If it can be believed, Alexis has posted one of his rare examples of a (mostly) non-abusive (though he does use the term "idiot") and thoughtful post! I just know he's not really the arrogant, sadistic, grumpy guss he makes himself out to be!

My issue with Alexis is that he has some great insights, and his style of writing is interesting, but his delivery is so (artificially?) volatile that (I feel) he's doing himself a disservice. More people would benefit from his insight if he just laid off the schtick a bit. If you read some of the posts I've written about his blog, you'll see people who comment that they used to read his stuff until the ire got to be too much. It's a shame, because I believe he has so much to offer.

I think he's like the Christian Bale character in the film The Prestige. The character had to live a secret double life in order to maintain the illusion that he was a great magician. He could never let go and just be his true self, lest his true persona/life be revealed (thus spoiling the secret of his greatest illusion).

Alexis, I'm sorry I ever doubted you. This Non-Stick in the Mud Award is for you!

P.S. Alexis actually allowed a comment from me to appear on the post! Progress. But when I tried to reply to his true-to-form riposte, it has sadly not appeared (at this time). I guess he's trying to use selective comment approval to skew the discussion in his favor. Here's what I said back to him:

"I salute you, sir, for maintaining character, as always. I don't think I'm any more abusive or insulting than any of your writings here, if you ask me. But come now, didn't your post state that you think the internet is a "wonderful" place, warts and all? And listen, disagreement doesn't need to equal disrespect. I may be harsh sometimes, but that's because I am human, and therefore faulty. But perhaps I am only returning the ire that you project outward? Food for thought. And don't kid yourself by thinking that I sit around waiting for your posts. I just happen to keep an eye on the blogs I follow, that's all. No need to look for a stalker, now."

P.P.S. And I wasn't being "patronizing" (as Alexis thinks) when I wrote this comment on his post (which he approved):

"This was really a great post, and I'm not being sarcastic. Thanks for this. And no, I don't expect to change you when I post about you. I just feel the need to, as you say, call out the stupid things people say. But in your case, it's not usually stupid. Rather, it seems to be strangely angry and sadistic, and I post because I want to ask you "why?" Why present yourself this way? I try to keep reminding myself that you probably mean well, you want to give the hobby some tough love, and that this is part of a persona you wish to project (i.e. the curmudgeonly wise man?). But I still am so curious and confused as to why you choose to be so damned irascible! Thanks again, this was really good stuff, and a breath of fresh air from the Tao."

Bottom line: I do love the repartee that I share with the gentleman! May the verbal fencing never cease!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The return of the Stick in the Mud Award

Hello everyone. It seems a certain someone doesn't like you again. Or rather, doesn't ever like you. Or rather, has never liked you. Ever. Even if you're a consistent "gentle reader." As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure that a certain someone actually hates consistent readers more than those who disagree with this certain someone's perennially sadistic tone. Or at least, that's what I'm getting out of the post to which I've provided the link above.

Congrats to that certain someone, for once again earning the Stick in the Mud Award. Keep on telling us we're all idiots, please (especially your loyal readers, I'm sure they appreciate it). Keep on getting closer to a cardiac event due to ranting over a hobby, which like all hobbies should probably be fun. I once again thank all the gods that ever existed that a certain someone doesn't have any control whatsoever over the rest of the RPG community's ability to enjoy the games we play. Certain Someone, this Mud's for you!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

How is everyone enjoying their October?

 I won't bore you with saying sorry for lack of posts, and move right on to my post! I know I am enjoying my favorite month, but I always feel like I am not doing enough to celebrate it. I've felt this way all my life. I always feel there is more I could be doing during Halloween Month, as I like to consider it.

In addition to that annual feeling, I am also feeling a bit sad about the warm temperatures that seem to have prevailed in recent years during October. I find myself missing the many crisp days of past Octobers. Many trees where I live seem to bypass the changing of colors, their leaves simply turning brown and falling off. There are some trees that still change, though, but this other trend is disturbing.

At any rate, as is my tradition during this time of year, I've picked up beloved tales of horror by Lovecraft and other authors and am rereading them lovingly. And since this is the first October since I've started gaming again in earnest, I've injected some horror into recent sessions.

If you love October, give a shout out to this greatest of months and let us know how you celebrate!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Crypts & Things available for pre-order!

The Swords & Wizardry variant Crypts & Things is now available for pre-order! I've been very excited about the arrival of Newt Newport's brainchild, I have to say! It has me daydreaming of running some savage sword & sorcery-style adventures!

I've placed MY order! Go here to order YOURS!