28 January 2010

The Story thus far

Our adventurers departed Winterhaven three days ago with an undead legion less than a day away from the village, ostensibly to enlist aid from the dwarves of the mines of Morath Dur. When nearing the village of Restenford at the foot of the dwarven mountain smoke was rising on the horizon. The village had been raided the previous night by a company of goblinoids. The PCs were stopped while approaching the village by Matthais of the town guard and when the PCs offered aid and friendship to Restenford they were ushered to a meeting of the town council where the town councilmen offered to pay the PCs 100gp for the head of every goblinoid that they brought back. The dwarven representatives from Morath Dur seemed a little uneasy and when approached by our dwarven cleric, Cael, they revealed to him their suspicions that the goblinoid company had headquarted in an abandoned (and secret) Mithril mine nearby: Kohl-Dor.

Torgthic, the cheif representative from Morath-Dur took Cael aside and explained the history of the mine to him: 1. That it was a mithril mine, 2. That it had been kept secret centuries ago when it was operational so the dwarves would not have to share their wealth with their neighbours, 3. That something had happened there, Tolas, the master miner of Kohl-Dor died by treachery and less than one month after his death Morath-Dur lost all contact with the neigboring mine. 4. Korliss the Foesmiter, a dwarven hero of some reknown, had taken a band of hammerers into the mine to reclaim it from whatever had been awakened in the depths and was never heard from again. 5. That the King of Morath-Dur would very much like for the mine, its mithril, and its dark secret to remain secret and that Morath-Dur would pay handsomely to keep it so.

In return for their secrecy the dwarves of Morath-Dur are also willing to send a company of dwarves to meet the most likely now rampaging undead horde that was released (by Douven *wink, wink, nudge, nudge*) upon Winterhaven.

06 January 2010

Try some of these next session

I'd like us to get us to the point where we're levelling up every other game. Of course that means that we'll need to average 5 encounters a session. Whew. Five 4e encounters an evening! I may have to pad it a bit. And as a bit of a heads up I think this Friday's game may prove difficult. Keep your wits about you. And try some of these:

Once per encounter as a standard action you can try to gain Combat Advantage against a target by making a BLUFF check. Your Bluff check vs. enemies Insight check.

Once per combat encounter you can use BLUFF to create a diversion and hide as a standard action. Bluff vs. Insight of each enemy. With a success immediately make a STEALTH check to hide.

As a standard action use INTIMIDATE vs. enemy'sWILL. Success will make an enemy surrender, reveal secrets, or cow then into taking some other action (maybe, I don't know, run away). Failure makes an enemy hostile to you. If you try and intimidate all your enemies at once make a separate INTIMIDATE check against each enemy's WILL defense.

Use a STEALTH check when you have cover or concealment to gain combat advantage against an enemy.

Or AID ANOTHER - make a melee basic attack vs. AC 10 and grant an ally +2 to his next attack.

And don't ask me about the logic behind my CAPS cause I don't know.

17 December 2009

meanwhile, back at the inn...

As I stepped into the common room of the inn, I noticed a young girl with her mother giving me the evil eye. I was dead tired and stunk to the heavens, but something about them glaring at me like I wasn’t the “Hero of Winterhaven” really ticked me off. I strolled up to the innkeeper and requested a hot bath be drawn and a meal be prepared for me immediately. Never taking my eyes off the two, I put on my coldest grin and walked right up to their table. Upon closer inspection, I toyed with the image of them both howling in my bedchambers as we instructed her young miss in the ways of “ill behaved madmen.” They seemed to get my point and cast their eyes back to their table.

“Something I can do for you ladies,” I spoke in what I hoped were tones befitting our newly gained status. They said nothing for a moment, but then the young lass spoke up. “My ma says that your lot are no more heroes of Winterhaven than she’s a dryad.” I couldn’t help myself and guffawed at her jest. She was dead on to my little song and dance. I can’t vouch for my companions as of yet, but she had me pegged. I composed myself again and took a chair at their table. I stared into the lass’s big blue eyes and waited for her or her mother to speak again. She just stared right back, but after a few moments she spoke again. “You hurt people for a living.” It wasn’t a question. I just nodded at her.
“My child means no harm, good sir,” her mother finally spoke.
“No harm done. Tell me, child, what else does your mother say about us?”
Neither had a comment for me, so I decided to spin them a yarn or two about what lie in store for their town.

One of the servers set my food before me. I took a much needed drink from my ale and began my story.

“Your town has been put in danger by Duvan. I’m sure that your mother has warned you countless times of the strangers that pass through this town. She has good reason to. Duvan has sold his immortal soul to conspire with forces that you have only glimpsed in your worst nightmares. The kind of dangers your own body forces itself to wake from. Real… EVIL. My lot, as you so accuse, have tried in vain to negate his ill advised actions. We tracked this madman to a cabin atop the mountain that your people have avoided for so many years. What we found up there was a powder keg set to explode. It just needed the fuse lit.”

A few other patrons of the inn gathered around. I took another drink and continued.

“We were warned by an elderly woodsman not to go after Duvan. He claimed that there were no answers at the top of the mountain. Only death… We couldn’t very well let Duvan consort with such evil unopposed, so we tricked the man and took an alternate path up the mountain. As we climbed higher our ears picked up all manner of whispering. The air hung heavy with dread. Not even the animals ventured up this far. All manner of wood had begun to turn to stone up there. Evil you could feel down to your very bones stirred upon this mountain. When we reached the cabin, we found countless signs of dark forces at work. Books of indescribable evil. Artifacts, potions, and powders that subdued you and lured you into an agreement with something that pulsed with evil from within the mountain itself. We found a trapdoor that led into a hell hidden within the mountain. It was down this trapdoor that we heard the ramblings of Duvan. He was speaking all sorts of gibberish, so we descended in hopes of getting to him before it was too late.”

Having emptied my cup, a stranger placed another before me. I nodded my thanks, and the stranger spoke to the growing crowd, “I never did trust that mad bastard.”

“You are wise to hold no faith in the man. As we traveled deeper into the labyrinth beneath the mountain, we were shown all sorts of horrors. Walls were carved with faces of the long dead that seemed to scream a warning to us from their stone prison. Paintings and murals of mortals and demons working together towards ungodly purposes. When we finally caught up to Duvan, he was kneeling at some sort of large pipe organ in a vast chamber. Duvan had undergone a horrible transformation since we last saw him. He had donned robes of some long dead cult. Most of his skin had begun to turn deathly pale as if to mimic bone. His eyes had rolled up into his head and he spoke to us in a voice that sounded like he had four or five other people inside with him. He damned us to a life of service to him and his foul gods. We tried to reason with him, but it was no use. Even the whisperings were getting louder. He must have felt he couldn’t bargain with us, so he banged upon the organ and fled deeper into the maze of tunnels. At once a horrible cloud of gas escaped from the pipes and we panicked. Poor Silas got a lungful of the stuff and almost died.”

It seemed as if the entire inn were hanging upon my every word by this point, so I pressed on eager to satiate their small minds. Hopefully I could convince that my lies were far easier to swallow than the truth.

“We took a short rest, made sure Silas was alright, and took up the chase. All manner of crypts and tombs lie beneath that damnable mountain. I’d even go far as to say that mountain was alive! It’s voice crept in our heads. Louder and louder it got. It wanted us to go mad and give in. Cael’s prayers didn’t seem to ward of any of the hate and vileness of the place. Finally we found ourselves in a room with all sorts of vines blocking further progress. It seemed that the vines were the source of all the whispering, so we hacked at them in hopes of shutting them up for good. If only it were as easy as weeding your garden… These things were alive and strong as twenty men! They would grab you and squeeze you like you were their long lost, spurned lover come to pay a visit. With much bloodshed, we finally hacked them all until they either gave up or were dead. The whispering ceased and our morale seemed to surge.”

“Deeper and deeper we went. Tombs and temples long forgotten. It wasn’t long after our business with the vines that we began to hear low groans and shuffling sounds coming from behind the endless doors that seemed barred from the outside. Whatever horrors were behind those elaborately carved doors, we were certainly NOT going to release them! Leave it to Duvan, however… He seemed to be freeing everything down there. After dispatching ghouls and other such fiendish undead, we began to notice mysterious writings that none of us could decipher. All was soon revealed as we uncovered an artifact that allowed us to read the strange script. DUVAN KU! It was written everywhere. Surely our bumbling yet likeable old man Duvan was not the embodiment of an ancient evil? Oh how wrong we were…”

I couldn’t ignore the growling in my stomach, so I took my meal and continued the story in-between bites.

“Chamber after endless chamber. Hallway upon hallway. We feared we were lost! Our dread was multiplied tenfold as we watched Axis open up a sarcophagus to reveal a wooden box that held a vicious trap. Duvan’s mad cackle echoed all around us as we watched his body slump to the floor before we could even warn him to stop. Bronn was so angry that he picked up the box and dashed it upon the chamber walls. I noticed a liquid seeping from a broken bottle and drug poor lifeless axis towards it. Surely this would be the antidote for the trap’s poison!? Alas, it was not. Poor Axis’ body grew to enormous size as I fed some of the liquid to him, and we were forced to flee the chamber for our lives! Loud snapping and squishing noises signaled the end of our friend. What a way to go, huh? We all swore loudly that DUVAN WOULD PAY!”

“Several chambers later and our enemies slain thus far, we were beginning to feel the effects of this place dwindling our will. Duvan would appear out of the shadows and mock us, only to vanish as we tried to pursue. Duvan knew our resolve was failing and took no hesitation as he twisted our own group against itself. We were taking a small rest in some sort of ancient altar room when Bronn, in a fit of blind rage, grabbed Silas by the neck. Bronn, speaking in tongues long since gone, lifted Silas up to place him on the alter as a sacrifice to the Duvan Ku! Reasoning with him was lost, so we bashed him over the head and he soon came to his senses. Oh how weary we had become. This place was driving us mad. There was a point where we were all lured to what appeared to be a bottomless chasm. Duvan stood opposite to us across the chasm and laughed. He claimed if we threw ourselves in, all would be forgiven. Given our weakened mental state, it seemed likely to just end it all here, but we snapped out of it and shrieked every insult in every language we could fathom towards Duvan. Anger bolstered our resolve and we found our second wind!”

“Luckily our journey was coming to a close. In a room much like the others that we’d come upon in this maddening place, we found Duvan’s accomplice. He materialized out of thin air and stood before us. Bronn launched an attack and the creature dodged as if Bronn were moving under water. A VAMPIRE, my mind screamed in disbelief, yet here it stood as plain as the day that would burn it to cinders! Maximus was the creatures name, and he stood there calm and collected as Duvan strolled casually into the room. Duvan told us of his plan to raise an army of undead along with the help of Maximus. He swore the realms would fall before his mighty force of death! According to Maximus there were terrible places scattered all around the realms that held horrors exactly like the mountain we had trudged through. What could we do against such powerful creatures. We were at a complete loss, so we threw ourselves at our enemies! All our efforts were for naught. The harder we fought, the more our adversaries laughed. Exhaustion set in and we all collapsed. When we awoke, we found ourselves bound in the very cabin that sat on top of the mountain. I freed myself and my companions, and with much haste, we fled down the mountain in hopes of warning Lord Padrag in time.”

“But where are your companions,” one of the locals asked.
“They are conversing with Padrag even as I speak. We will have a plan, my good citizens. The heroes of Winterhaven will not let you down,” I spoke to the crowd. I just hope we get the hells out of here before they find out what really happened…

30 November 2009

Game Thoughts: Resource Management and Logistics

Although I've never really fully incorporated encumbrance rules in a game or ever been terribly strict with my timekeeping or been very precise when it comes to movement speed (or ever known anyone else who was) I've always wanted to be. Those just seem like the kind of things a good game master should trouble about. It's rules like these where the game is it's most game-ish. With limitation of course - There's no reason to make a big deal out of that new magic sword you just found encumbering you or hauling away a mountainous pile of gold after the whole dungeon has been cleared out. But if there are still bands of gnolls prowling the corridors - that's another story. Same thing with light sources. There's nothing terribly fun about rolling dice to see if you get the campfire lit but if you are two miles underground and your last torch burns out while you're in the middle of fighting off some beasties, well that is fun. Or, rather, it might be fun provided the encounter ends well for the party. It's fun to me anyway but I've a cruel streak.

The same thing with encumbrance and provisioning. Delving into a mega dungeon should be a major undertaking. Troubling about pack animals and hiring porters or men at arms for the journey (despite being a big headache for the DM trying to track initiative and effects) should add depth to an underdark adventure. You would have the added enjoyment of managing your gold, your henchmen, and put a deal more thought into such an expedition than your average dungeon crawl. Again, it seems it would potentially add a great deal of fun to the game if you had a mule to sacrifice to a pack of hungry wolves to enable your escape or to eat yourself if you got trapped on level 3 or to haul away some great golden idol or to trouble about provender for the mule after three days underground.

All the same I wouldn't want to turn the game into hours of accounting and inventory and collecting rents but nevertheless I am going to start trying to be accurate with my timekeeping and light source radii and mileage per terrain type, &c. So I guess this is my warning of sorts. Make sure you have enough food if you want to try and journey over that mountain range because I don't want to spring starvation on you unannounced.

Of course all of the above depends upon me to actually provide the kind of scenarios/campaign where this kind of thing would even matter and hopefully make it fun at the same time.