Using My Monsters

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Thorn Golem - Level 3 Elite Brute

The newbies just faced one of these in a fey dungeon within a semi-sentient plant, guarding a rather nasty trap that they thought was their ultimate goal...

Created by certain arch-fey or potent wielders of primal magic, these things are not so much built as grown. Half again as tall as the average human, they are willowy, slender things. Most are vaguely humanoid in form, though their bodies consist of thickly intertwined thorns of verdant, vivid green, which coil tightly together before emerging from their surface in a brutal mantle. 
When activated, more thorns - usually crimson and dagger straight, emerge from between the curving mass of the thing's component growths, creating a deadly barrier to those who get careless when battling the brute. 

Barely sentient, these things obey the commands given to them by their masters in a straight forward and literal sense. They do not flee, and fight until destroyed. 

(Special Note: The software I use to generate these blocks does not add the modifier to the stat mods for 1/2 the monster's level. Add +1 to those listed above; i.e. the Dex mod is +3 not +2)

Saturday, 28 July 2012

UK Gaming Media Network

Just a quick post to say that we are now a member of the UK Gaming Media Network, a group dedicated to gathering the best of UK gaming together in one place. 

Thanks for having us! I hope we can keep you entertained and give you some useful stuff!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

State of Play - Shnecke's Wolves - July 23rd, 2012

1/8/1472 – 00:42 – 01:05: The assassin checks out the solid looking walls of the chamber, and can detect no hidden passages or illusions. From the other side of the chamber he notices that another tunnel exits to the south; a wide tunnel, who's threshold is decorated with sharks teeth. Beyond this toothy portal is a smallish chamber, filled with greasy looking mushrooms that shiver slightly in the gloom, its walls, like those of the corridors and chambers before, daubed with crude depictions of Shadrakuul's symbol, sharks, the sea, and here and there, staring eyes. In the middle of this chamber, a large hole yawns in the ground. Satisfied for now, he and Thatari cautiously check out the altar, looking for any wards or other possibly dangerous protective measures. There are none. Indeed the only thing of real note are the cushions scattered around it – cushions on which worshippers could kneel or place their foreheads.

“Looks like we interrupted a prayer meeting or something?” Mutters the assassin.

“Oooh, look for cake.” Quips the warlock sarcastically.

Whilst doing this, Thatari notices some slight modifications to the symbol of Shadrakuul depicted on the walls and on the altar in this place; fringes of smaller sharks' teeth and slight changes to the general form. These he feels, suggest that this particular cult may either follow a slightly modified version of the cult's credos, or has become corrupted somehow.

“Knowing this world, it's the latter.”

Moving closer to the fanged doorway, the assassin seeks to examine the large teeth set in the stone there. However, when he comes within 5' of it, he almost passes out from shock as an unholy cacophony of whistling, piercing screams suddenly burst forth from the large mushrooms in the chamber beyond.

“Shriekers!” he yells – though over the deafening screams no one can hear him, “We need to shut them up!” The rest of the group claw towards him, hands over their ears, their faces pained, and Jaeger gives out a variety of deadly thrown weapons – flasks of lamp oil, alchemists fire and several of the filth filled shrunken heads they obtained whilst fighting the Death Loved so long ago. These are lofted into the air, and soon the screaming is replaced with the dull roar of flames, and the spitting fizz of rotting mushroom.

Everyone readies themselves for whatever assault the screams have brought down upon one attacks!

Growing bored and hungry, Shnecke, followed cautiously by Grigori, begins to sniff the air coming from the eastern tunnel. He notes that the tunnel slopes away into darkness, and that there are a mix of smells coming from it; unwashed humans, Dundiir, oiled wood, rust, salt water. Joining him, Grigori picks up even more subtle scents – fear, burned flesh.

Varracuda and Lia join them, and shortly afterwards, so too do then others. Scanning ahead, the assassin sees nothing that immediately worries him. However, his sixth sense tingles, and he does a second search, finding a well concealed glyph carved on the floor. Thatari quickly identifies that it is a Drowning Glyph, which causes the victims' lungs to inflate with fluid until they either drown, or their chests erupt.

Shifting his form into a watery manifestation, the swordmage offers to try and disable the trap. He is warned that it is a thing of divine magic, and so, will not be easy to unpick with his wizardly knowledge, and indeed, he accidentally triggers it – though his water-adapted form is able to handle its effects without lasting harm.

01:05 – 01:40 – At the end of the warded tunnel is a large cavern. Its floor is some 50' below the level of the tunnel, filled by shark infested waters to a depth of 25'. Built over this, upon oiled wood stands, are a series of cages of rusting metal and wood. Within these are about 20 humans – mostly Aurymites, though there are a few who have the weathered skin and wiry frames of sailors. None are manacled in any way, though given their precarious position, and the fact that there is no bridge between the cage's only door and the 20' gap to the tunnel in which the group stand, there is little incentive to try and escape. There are however some individuals in the cage who have been secured; three dundiir, chained together on their own. These fellows appear to have put up a good fight at some point, as they each bear healing wounds and vicious bruises. The assassin also realises that they have been positioned on a trap door, which has been linked to their manacles in such a way that any concerted efforts to escape would result in them plunging into the shark pit below – a grim and final fate.

All bear fresh brands – the triangular sigil of Dohr'Khusta's slavers.

When the group first reveal themselves there is some panic, as the prisoners believe them to be members of the cult or (in their eyes) worse, pirates. It takes some serious intervention by the warlock to calm them down, and soon the group are able to learn that the pirates use hooked ladders to form a bridge between the cages and the corridor.

Thinking back, Jaeger suddenly realises that there were ladders hanging on the wall in the shrieker chamber, and soon they have been brought down, and set across the gap. Easily opening the lock, the assassin opens the doors to the cages, and soon the humans are fearfully huddled in the altar room, their faces showing both stark terror and gratitude.

Getting the dundiir out without dropping them into the hungry waters below is a little more tricky. However, with great skill, Jaeger manages to disable the crude drop mechanism, and soon they are rubbing their wrists, and cackling with glee at being set free.

The prisoners are interrogated by Thatari using his telepathy, whilst Grigori enacts a ritual designed to help him worm out any liars. No one lies as they tell the group their stories. Most were snatched off the streets of nearby islands, before being bundled into a vessel and brought here, though the sailors were serving on the Silver Zephyr, a merchantman from Fey, attacked by the Ravager in the Sea of Splinters.

The dundiir readily admit to deserting the supply hauler they had been on, to hunt for Aurymite gold rumoured to be unguarded after the “calamity” - apparently unashamed of admitting to being both deserters and thieves. They also state that they would like a chance to visit some revenge on the pirates, and eagerly accept the chance to join the party (their leader is a clean shaved fellow named Angrun, his beardless face suggesting that he has ties to no clan or family line).

They are questioned about their path to the chambers, and though they were blindfolded, they recollect being forced up ladders, the smell of salt water, an area that chilled their souls with its unnatural presence, and before they were thrown in the cage, the sound of a very heavy stone door opening. They also speak of ascending a tight and steep flight of stairs before entering this area, and the group decide to check out the shaft in the Shrieker room, for it has tight and steep steps cut into its walls...

01:41 – 02:05 – Cautiously the group move down the stairs, the dundiir in front of them (Angrun has borrowed Shnecke's fiery axe – though on the condition that he gives it back). Most of the prisoners have opted to stay in the altar room to await escape, and the group leave Skull with them as a guardian. Only five of them opt to join the party, not including the three dundiir.

As they descend, so the air grows unpleasantly warm and curdled by a terrible stench. After about 20' the stairs end in a small, heavily decorated room; the walls thick with grotesque carvings and paintings depicting more teeth, sharks, staring eyes, and here and there, an ominous robed figure, who's only feature is the wide, toothy mouth that fills the hood.

The stench in this room is almost too much to take; a choking mix of sewage, rotting flesh, garbage and stagnant water. Small flies crawl over everything down here, feeding on the filthy boot prints that track back and forth along the only exit from the room – a sharply sloping tunnel, lined with more filthy art and scummy growths of bacterial colonies and fungi.

From far along the tunnel, something huge roars from multiple mouths.

Very nervous now, the group (sans the five human prisoners, who fearfully retreat to join the others in the altar room on hearing the monstrous roaring) edge along the slick tunnel, trying to ignore the tickling of the flies that mob them. Sweating in the filthy humidity, the group soon come to the shores of a vast lake of liquid putridity, its boiling, oozing surface hidden by a greasy miasma, broken here and there by scabby islands of congealed muck. High in the caverns' roof and to the left, fractured pipes disgorge clotted streams of filth from some private sewer or cesspool above, whilst to the right, cleaner water percolates through the cavern's ceiling, leaving huge, white growths of salt in its wake.

However, most everyone's attention is fixed on the – thing – that wallows and roars in the middle of this foul morass; a hulking abomination that seems to combine the worst aspects of a serpentine hydra and the skulking, disease ridden Groth'Egulg or Otyugh. It has a bloated, filth smeared body of gargantuan proportions, from which sprout six long, muscular necks, each terminating in a crocodilian head, which weep a noxious slime of pus and filth. Two powerful tentacles grow from its body, each ending in a lanceolate, leathery structure, covered in curved, sharp fangs. Again, these are covered in filth. It seems lost in a rage, but within moments of the group arriving at the edge of its pool, the horror turns its heads towards them, and it surges with terrifying speed across the cavern to meet them, sending a wave of fermented rot rolling towards them before it.

The group back off, and after a brief discussion decide – based on the fact that the prisoners heard a heavy stone door, and they had come across no such door – that the monster's lair is not the right way to go.

“The altar!” Shouts Grigori suddenly, “I'll bet that there's a hidden way through the altar!”

02:15 – The altar grinds back on mechanical hinges, revealing a shaft filled with well crafted stone steps, that plunge into darkness. A fresh, salty breeze gusts from below, carrying with it distant sounds of waves.

The group cautiously go down...

02:20 – 02:23 – The steps lead to a small cavern who's air resonates with a cold malevolence. In the distance the floor of this cavern falls away to a lower level, within which rise several crude wooden structures. Beyond that, rising elegantly, its rigging hung about with small lanterns, is a ship, clearly berthed in a subterranean dock. Distant voices shout out in alarm from its hidden decks, alarm sounding clearly even though they speak in the rolling Dohr'Khustan tongue.

However, the group have more immediate worries, for five undead bar their way. They are the crudest of things – merely animated human skeletons, held together by necromancy and their own mummified tendons. Three bear scimitars, and charge to attack, the dundiir running to meet them. The other two raise creaking crossbows, and squeeze the triggers.

A fight ensues, during which one of the dundiir is slain, his head hacked clean from his shoulders by the hissing edge of a skeleton's scimitar. The rest of the group suffer some minor wounds, but soon, the undead are smashed to the floor. However, the battle has taken time and resources, and from beyond this cavern, the voices of the Dohr'Khustan's are much nearer.

The group prepare to face them.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Blank Power Cards

I did it. I unsubscribed from Dungeons and Dragons Insider, and as of October 15th this year, will no longer have access to the Character Builder. To my surprise, almost all my players have been quite supportive of this move, even though it means a lot more work for them when they are creating and levelling up their characters. So, I have worked on some blank power card templates, as well as some for magical items. 

They are in a variety of formats, though the .html and .pdf are not editable.

I actually use the Magic Set Editor for producing my power cards, and if you fancy getting it, the link I just posted back there will see you right. To make cards like those I make you will need the Ander's MSE Template, which should be available HERE.

Anyway, I hope this helps.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Staving Off The Coming Apocalypse...

Apocalypse, apparently, literally means a "Great Revealing", and come October, I suspect my players and myself will have it revealed how easily we can create and update characters without the Wizards of the Coast official builder. Truth is, the official D&D site is no longer worth the subscription to me, and although I reserve the right to change my mind later, I object to pay for a tool (the OCB) that is buggy, *still* won't let me properly enter in custom items or powers, and runs like treacle at the North Pole.

The Compendium is still a valuable tool, but you can search it (without accessing stats) without a sub, which is good enough for learning which book to find something in (I have dead tree versions of almost every 4e book, as I have never had enough faith in Hasbro to keep the electronic tools available / worth the money), and I have utterly ignored the monster builder, as I use the always amazing (and free) DnD4e Combat Manager to run my games and store my monsters.

We will not discuss the soon to be deceased VTT (The VTT is dead, long live the VTT)

In truth, I mainly used to subscribe for the 4e gaming content on the site, which sadly, is now sparse, and lost beneath a thousand thinly disguised adverts for new products, and tiresome DnD Next blather. I just tend to spend my time grinding my teeth when I am on the site, and wishing that they would release their e-tools as a set of discs I could buy, install, and run without the sub.

Which brings me to the actual point of this post. A while back I bought a pretty cheap little app off, which is an automated character sheet with built in dice, and it's quite nice. So, I thought I would bring it to your attention, just in case you, like me, are looking for an alternative to the WoTc online toolset.

Access it HERE or try the free version HERE

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Lessons Learned in the Tomb of Horrors

So, I've had some time to mull over the Tomb of Horror's (ToH) weekender, and drawn some conclusions as to how I can improve my normal D&D 4e games. And, being a nice kinda' guy, I thought I would share them with you...

  1. If used correctly, the threat of instant death is a good thing: When 4e first came out, I missed my “save or die” effects. However, after seeing the death mechanic in play, and the panic that a player experiences as their character is slowly petrified, disintegrated or dissolved (rather than instantly), I changed my mind. I actually found that more dread and loathing was generated by the creeping advance of doom than the “zap, you're gone” kind, and consider myself an advocate for that kind of effect.
    Having said that, there are several bits in the ToH that are insta kills, and I left them in, and they worked really well, and whilst I don't intend to place a ton of instantly lethal traps and attacks in my regular games, I do think that under certain circumstances, they do add a delicious moment of bowel-liquefying horror to the game.
    By “certain circumstances” I mean situations like the crushing ceiling from Area 2; The group had four rounds to somehow get the trapped Warforged Swordmage out, or, at the start of round five, he was a squishy mess. They managed to punch through the wall, and came up with a great plan to do it more quickly (listen to the recording if you are interested – group two). They pulled him out one round before he was mangled, and knew, for a fact, that he had beaten death by a gnats whisker! 

  2. Longer duration afflictions rule: Team two were deaf for most of the game (-10 Perception) and this changed their whole approach to many things, and I realised how much I missed effects that lasted longer than “until the end of the encounter”. I intend to bring a LOT of lingering effects that last until removed, or until the next short / extended rest into play. I know this means a bit more housekeeping, but it brings some lovely changes to how the players navigate the adventures, and serves as a reminder of the price of inattentiveness.
    In a similar vein, I am (as you may have noticed) experimenting with some slightly more potent, old school style magic items, including those that bestow longer lasting effects, and / or have charges. This again, reaches back to giving characters a wider pool of tricks and utilities outside of the arena of combat.

  3. Even hack and slashers can enjoy a “fun house” dungeon: A number of my players enjoy a good fight, which is why I include a lot of combat in my games. I must admit, I was a little concerned that they might get a bit bored with the ToH, seeing as it is mostly opaque puzzles and arbitrary death traps. However, to my surprise, they loved the creeping along, checking everything, and really started to use their imaginations to solve problems, which brings me to...

  4. Let the players deduce their own solutions / make them describe actions: As you know, DnD Next is a big turn off for me and mine. However, one facet of it – the removal of skills per se, in place of ability checks – actually makes a lot of sense to me now in light of the ToH game.
    I ran it like I was back in the 80's; no help, no mercy, and when someone said something like “I'm doing a perception check”, I made them tell me
    exactly where they were checking and how. By doing this, it became less about allowing the skill to do all the work, and more about the player really having to think about what their character was doing, and it lead to some awesome ideas (including using a Tenser's Floating Disc as an anti-pit trap mechanism). I intend to be a little less generous when it comes to allowing skills to solve problems in future (and this started with 3e really, when there was a skill for everything), and will work to introduce puzzles and situations where a skill check by itself just won't cut it.

  5. Dungeons Rule!: Most of my games seem to take place in cities, the wilderness or bizarre settings, and it's not very often that I get to run a dungeon. ToH (admittedly along with my third return to Dungeons and Dragons Online) brought back to me just how frickin' cool dungeons are, with their lowering entrances, their winding, trap and trick filled corridors, and death soaked, suffocating chambers.
    I fell in love with dungeons at the very start of my gaming experience (and had it cemented by video games like Dungeon Master, Chaos Strikes Back and the original Bard's Tales games – TARJAN), and used to pretty much run games that were set entirely within them. Somewhere along the line my games changed, and became a lot more about the wider world, the larger picture and the ongoing story – which believe me is cool – but it kinda' crowded out those classic, trap laden horror pits that my earlier games revolved around, and I missed that.
    I'm going to work to bring classic style dungeons back into my games, either as part of the main campaign arc or as side quests. I miss characters gingerly poking the floor with a 10' pole, in order to prevent getting a face full of poisoned darts that turn into rot grubs on impact...I want to see characters dying in those kinds of places once more...

  6. And finally; One shots are cool: I work shifts, and my mates all have families and busy work lives. This means that we have to fight for every minute we get to sling dice together, which tends to see us focus purely on the “main” campaigns (or Magic the Gathering). However, the simple joy of running a bunch of pre-gens (I made 20 characters for this game, and hope to never roll another character up again as long as I live) through a dungeon without having to worry about the impact of death on a long standing campaign, or the loss of hard earned items, made for a great, fun, and relatively light hearted time. I fully intend to run more events like these (already had requests to do either a self-written module, or to run a one shot Call of Cthulhu game), and hope that my players will still be up for getting together, and tearing the module to shreds!
So yes, I agree, the old school style of gaming is fun. I really enjoyed reverting to my 15-year-old self for a couple of days, gleefully cackling as player characters got mangled, and loving the puzzled looks on people's faces as they tried to work out the (almost useless) poetic clues from the crimson path. I intend to bring a slightly more old school feel to my regular games, but can see how this is easily accomplished with 4e, and doesn't require a change of games or editions.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Ormid et Al - Session Report, July 2012

19:35 – 20:15 – The group accompany Captain Khedan as he and several other interrogators question the captured Dracadian. It takes time and pain-filled (for the Dracadian) efforts, but they eventually learn several pertinent facts. Firstly, the man's name is Ekarj, and he was formerly a member of House Kythus – a caravan guard, thought lost at the “Tainted Oasis” known locally as “Bitter Waters”. Secondly, He is utterly insane; fanatically devoted to the Blue Lord, showing, even in the face of death, no fear of the party or the guards, continuing to spit vile proclamations of loyalty to the Blue Lord, and prophesying the downfall of Kadash and all within its walls.

Eventually, Ormid decides he has heard enough, and in a moment of rage, punches the bound man as hard as he can with his artifice fist. There is not so much a head left as he pulls back the dripping mass of steel and stone, but a gristly indentation in the shape of his knuckles.

House Kythus.” Murmurs Khedan, “The same house from which the traitor Sariq - may the desert Ifrit devour his soul – hailed from. I may have to organise a meeting with Nalziir in the near future...”

20:16 – 22:30 – With the interrogations over, the group set to work pretending to enter the various rooms around the city within various inns, the artificer enchanting each door with a sealing ritual, before they sneak out of each by alternate routes. Watching the rooms from afar are a number of chosen men from Llewellyn's “school” - each a dark blur in the deepening gloom of the rapidly cooling, desert night.

23:00 – The group return to the House of Granite.

12/5/51 – 15/5/51 : After several uneventful days of monitoring the rooms they have warded, the group realise that any potential enemies have taken measure of their ability during the plaza battle, and decided on less direct methods of attack. Frustrated, and eager to be doing something more than sitting around, they are equally suspicious and pleased when an envoy arrives with an invitation from Omar Khem'Zaul, asking them to meet him at his home, so he can help them liberate his city from the Blue Lord. There is some disagreement about this, as something about the emaciated, overly friendly majordomo has put several members of the group on edge. However, it decided that ultimately, he may prove a useful source of information, and, should he prove hostile, that the group are more than capable of managing anything he can throw at them.They let the the emissary know that they would like to accept Omar's invitation, and meet.

08:00 – 09:00 – The group arrive at the outer gates of House Zaul's impressive compound, its standard – a six-headed hydra – rendered in bright gold and burnished bronze on their front. Beyond the gate on a great hill, past sweeping terraced gardens filled with aqueducts and lily filled ponds, rises an ivory domed palace, which looms over five slender towers of gold and cream, a straight path of crushed white gravel leading from the gate to its flawless, marble front steps. Watching over the gates are six silent warriors, dressed from head to foot in black silk robes, their features hidden behind tightly bound keffiyeh. Each bears either a combination of embossed round-shields and spear, or carries a selection of bizarre, multi-bladed throwing weapons, that the group later discover are called kpinga.

There is no conversation with these silent sentinels, for as soon as they lay their dark eyes on the group, the great gates are opened to them. Once inside the walls of the compound the party are escorted by six of the gliding, unspeaking warriors along the path, and into the echoing coolness of the cavernous palace's halls where soon they find themselves standing within a huge pillared hall, illuminated by glinting strips of sunlight lancing through high windows, before a spectacular throne of silk and gold, upon which reclines Omar Khem'Zaul.

However, their attention is fixed upon the two massive, blue-scaled quadrupeds that flank the throne; clearly monsters of draconic blood, the air around their gleaming scales agitated by static discharges. Omar seems unconcerned by their faces, and leaps up to greet them, the party closely watched by the numerous black robed guards that lurk amongst the pillars in this room.

My friends!” Beams Omar, his dark skin lost beneath a layer of fragrant, golden powders, “It is so good to see you. You honour me with your presence.”

You said you wanted to help us.” Replies Ormid, his voice neutral, his eyes fixed on the hulking, horn-headed monsters by the throne, “You suggested you could help us remove the taint of the Blue Lord's power from Kadash.”

Omar smiles, “Indeed.”

He then clicks his fingers, and moments later, two more robed guards glide forwards, carrying an elaborate case of ebony, ivory and abalone, before placing it on the ground between Omar and the group. Still smiling, holding Ormid's gaze, he gestures towards the case, before opening it to reveal the pommel, grip and guard of a huge, highly ornamented sword. It is a thing of true beauty; its cross-guards carved to resemble the wings of the two serpentine dracani that coil around the grip, their toothy mouths clamped over the spherical pommel. Closer examination reveals that minute runes have been carved on the wings, and after a few moments of breathless examination, Ormid blows a low whistle, and whispers, “A true blade of dracani slaying. A blade of legend.” He seems close to tears.

Omar smiles, nodding. “It's name is lost, though likely carved upon its blade, and it dates back to the mythical Drake Wars in the Second Age.”

This would be a fearsome weapon against the Blue Lord.” Ormid states, “Where is the blade.”

All eyes turn to the majordomo of House Zaul, and he appears suddenly uncomfortable. Rubbing his neck, he seems almost embarrassed as he speaks. “Alas, I fear that the blade is sequestered within the deep vaults of House Kythus, Third of the Five, and currently, under something of a cloud, for it was one of theirs – Sariq – who became the monster's spokesman, and it is they who still manage to turn a tidy profit in these dark times.”

Oh?” Growls the Veteran, suddenly interested.

Somehow, many of their cargoes go unmolested, and reach their destinations. Even more strangely, their monies return safely. It could, of course, be pure luck. Perhaps they know of hidden paths that allow safe travel, or perhaps their guards are better trained than any other house, but...”

He doesn't bother to finish the sentence.

Llewellyn, who has been largely looking around the chamber in which they speak, silently cataloguing the items of worth within it – purely as a mental exercise of course – suddenly feels boredom stirring within him. Irritated, he glares at Omar, and quite rudely snaps, “Get to the point! What do you want?”

Omar seems not to take offence, and with a smile and a slight nod continues. “I have had for some time, a sequence of runes which link to a teleport circle deep within the Kythus vaults. I know not why they would have such a thing in such a secure place, and would be pleased if you did not ask me how or why I came to possess them. However, I am sure that they possess the other half of the sword, and would ask you to consider using the sequence to infiltrate and open the vault, in search of it.”

Everyone looks less than happy, and Ormid gives a fairly loud “Fuck that!” Seeing that he is losing them, Omar produces something else – a scale the size of a dinner plate. Glossy black and ridged to a definite point on one side, it is clearly draconic in origin.

Also obtained from a House Kythus source. The vault, I am lead to believe, holds whatever produced this scale. I may keep beasts of draconic heritage, but do so openly and have had them since long before the Blue Lord imposed his vile will on the city. It seems however that Nalziir chooses to hide his beast, whatever it may be, which to me and mine seems more than a little suspicious, especially when the other factors are taken into account.”

The group feel Omar's gaze boring into them, his features fixed almost into a rictus, his teeth yellow in the half-light reflecting of his makeup.

How do we know you are telling the truth?” Asks Ormid, “I assume there must be rivalry between the houses. How do I know you don't simply seek to use us as a weapon against a rival? Maybe I should try using a detection ritual to check that this blade truly resides within their vaults before we go kicking in doors and raising hell?”

Omar seems not to take offence, and nods as he speaks. “You are wise master Ormid. However, I would remind you that Kythus is the third house, whereas my own is the second. We are not concerned about a house that falls behind us so greatly...”

Though their success in these difficult times must put your position at risk?” Interrupts Llewellyn, his mind perfectly suited to navigating the treacherous avenues of such situations.

Omar finally allows some irritation to show, though his words remains honeyed when he begins again.

As I said, Kythus is far from us in power, though if the current trends did continue, they would, eventually, have the power to seek elevation, which would, as you have correctly deduced, see our own house demoted to third. That however will not happen, for as soon as you slay the Blue Lord, life will return to normal, and we shall be turning a mighty proft once more.
As for trying to detect the blade, I can only assume that House Kythus, like we ourselves, have taken steps to reinforce their vaults both physically and magically, making them opaque to spells of far-seeing. You may try of course, but I doubt highly that you would succeed.”

Ormid nods, unable to deny the logic. Then he hits on an idea. “Majordomo, could I ask you to seal the part of the sword you have in your vaults? If I can pick it up with a spell, then it may be possible to use the same ritual against the Kythus wards.”

Of course! So be it.”

Omar makes a “go away” gesture at the case, and the two silent guards pick it up and take it away.

Can I get you some refreshments whilst it is interred within our vaults?”

Roughly fifteen minutes pass, during which Omar chats about meaningless things. Then one of his guards drifts back, and nods its head once at him. With a smile, Omar tells Ormid that he may begin his ritual...

...With the exact results the majordomo predicted. “It's just not there.” States the artificer, a little annoyed, “I thought I might be able to push past any wardings, but no, it's gone.”

You see? Unfortunately my request must rest entirely on whether or not you trust me and my motives.”

09:01 – 09:15 – The group do not make any promises, and leave shortly after Ormid's failed attempt to scry the sword piece. Back in the streets, and the heat is already suffocating to the northerners, the white stone of Omar's palace blinding in its glare.

So?” Asks Tssel.

I trust him about as far as I can throw a Thodzuna.” Quips Llewellyn. “He has far too many ulterior motives, and seems a little too comfortable around us and drake kin.”

the Veteran nods, but then seems to have a thought. “At the risk of sounding foolish, we should be careful not to let our decision get sidetracked by what could be irrelevant information.”

Everyone agrees. “Thing is,” starts Ormid, “I don't really want to get involved in something that could be a manipulation attempt intended to impact on the standing of House Kythus by one of their rivals.” He shrugs.

Perhaps we should just go and ask Nalziir for his input. Or even convene all the majordomos of all the houses to thrash thing out openly.”

Everyone stands for a moment, sweating and thinking in the gathering heat.

Why don't we just go and request an immediate audience with Nalziir? We can keep an eye out for his reaction when we mention the sword and the scale. If he denies having the sword, we can try to gauge whether he is lying or not, and take the appropriate action there and then?”

The vyrleen's plan is a good one, and the group agree to it.

House Kythus' compound is only a few minutes away from House Zaul's, it's jade and gold pyramid visible through the heat haze shimmering above Zaul's gardens, and the group soon find themselves outside of its main gate; a massive, reinforced thing of metal and stone, emblazoned with the houses' standard of a three-headed spear, watched over by two very impressive looking guards. Each stands almost 7' tall, and despite the ferocious heat, wears heavy enamelled plate of some ceramic like material. White in colour, each guard's face is hidden behind a vacantly noble mask, their gauntleted hands gripping the hafts of curious looking polearms – halberd like things, which also seem to incorporate, beneath the blade, a firearm. Each guard carries no other weapon, though powder horns and ammunition bags are clearly evident on their belts.

The group approach them, and at once the guards cross their firespears, barring entrance.

My good fellows,” Begins Ormid with a bow, “I am Ormid Theffler, Dragonslayer, City Killer, Time Traveller and founder of the Unifying Order of Mages. These are my most illustrious and famed companions. We seek an audience at once with your master, the Majordomo Nalziir Kythus. Please step aside so we may meet with him.”

The guards do not move.

Ahem. As I was saying, I am...”

(in Tradespeak) A deep voice, oddly accented and dark cuts the artificer off.

We heard you hero, and without prior appointment you are not permitted to enter my Lord's estates or to meet with him.”

Ormid straightens suddenly, a little shocked.

Llewellyn gives a nasty grin. “Do you know who we are? Do you know what we just did? Do you really want to try and stop us getting in there?”

The Guard turns his masked head to look down at the vyrleen, his eyes hard behind its impassive fa├žade. “I know who you are, and what you are alleged to have done. I feel your power clearly, and yet, have a duty to prevent any and all who seek entrance to these grounds without my master's consent. You do not have his consent, and so, are not permitted to cross the boundary here.”

If,” begins the other guard, his voice also oddly accented, “You seek an audience, we can arrange for a emissary to meet with you to arrange this. But for today, you must back off, as we are not moving an inch.”

Swiftly, and fearlessly, the Veteran strides up to stand, chest to chest, eye to eye with the right hand guard, meeting his hard gaze with his own, unblinking one.

Well neither am I.”

And then the inevitable happens...

Frustrated, and wanting only to see over the high wall that surrounds the compound, Llewellyn awakens one of his potent rings, and is born upwards of currents of magic. This is seen by the guards (including the two that stand behind the gate) as an attempt to scale the walls and gain entry, and without hesitation they attack.

At first both Ormid and Tssel do their best to reign both sides in, as a titanic struggle engulfs the streets in flame, smoke and blood. Llewellyn is shot three times before he can sink back down, and is almost killed, his boots taking him to the safety of a nearby roof top where he can gulp down some healing elixirs. It swiftly becomes apparent that these guards are far and beyond anything the party had thought them to be, and the reason becomes clear when a sweep of the Veteran's axe removes the mask from one of them.

“Ghur? Draxian half-breeds?”

The Ghur (Mul) gives a cold smile, his features handsome and scarred.

Ormid and Tssel quickly realise that any attempts to reconcile this encounter peacefully have passed, and turn their attention to trying to subdue the potent guardians.

I don't get it.” Shouts Llewellyn in the language of the North Republic as he teleports in to smash his mace against the solid armour of one guard, before somersaulting away from the answering strike, “These guys are sodding tough.”

Ugh, tell me something I...” the Veteran takes a blow that opens his chest wide open, heamolymph spurting in a sweating arc from the damaged vessels within, “Don't know.”

So why doesn't Kythus just send them to kill the Blue Lord?”

A good question.” replies Ormid his implement shining with arcane power.

It is not an easy fight at all, and it become quickly apparent that both sides are perfectly matched. The guards, like all Ghur, are innate masters of combat, and their inbred resistance to pain and ability to see past many feints and tricks makes them all but impossible to bloody. Their armour is also immaculately formed, and takes multiple strikes before it can be breached. Worse, they fight very well. Their curious weapons allow them deadly reach, and are used to lacerate armour, open up major blood vessels and to carve sucking wounds into any they strike. To make matters worse, on occasion, they loosely tamp blackpowder over the blade and attack as it burns, adding it fierce, explosive heat to their strikes. As if this wasn't enough, they are crack shots with the pistol like parts of their weapons, and their bullets wreak horrible damage on those they strike.

The group are forced to bring everything they have to the fore. Tssel summons a raging elemental of air, which lasts only a few seconds before it is ripped apart by a blazing firespear. Ormid quickly tires as he tries to mitigate the damage his allies are suffering, and to best his foes. He also spends a lot of time screaming out to his allies that they must only incapacitate, and not kill the guards. “We don't want to start a war after all.”

Really?” Comes the Veteran's non too comforting reply.

After a solid minute of battle, several of the buildings on the street are damaged by the combat. Ferrous has activated a combat mode that sees him become huge; thick plates of reinforced armour bulking him up, his claws chiming with power, his mouth a nightmare of flames, lighting and shredding metallic fangs, whilst everyone else struggles to survive against the guard's deadly efforts.

However, one by one, the guards begin to falter, and just as a wave of more mundane guards begin to spill from the distant pyramid of the Kythus compound, so the last one is knocked senseless.

Oddly invigorated, despite their pain, the group turn to face the oncoming soldiers, the air shimmering with spent magic and heat.

Um, are we really going to make war on this house based on pretty much nothing?” Asks Tssel out the corner of her mouth.

Truth be told,” comes Ormid's reply, “at this exact moment, I have no idea what we're going to do.”

Around them, the street gleams under a haze of heat and smoke. The guards draw nearer...

To the Victor...

So, group two of the Tomb of Horrors competition weekend get their prize today. One of their regular characters gets access to the Echoes of Greatness power, an at-will that gives several more ways to spend action points. I may create a feat to allow access to this power to other characters, but would have to think about requirements. They also get to keep 10% of the wealth found by their alternate, tomb raiding selves...which unfortunately, is not that much for them (the other group however, would have made a fortune - those pews are loaded with coin..and poison...)

Monday, 9 July 2012

Tomb of Horrors Weekender

So, my conversion of S1 murdered and maimed this weekend. and yes, there was one TPK. Below are links to the zipped recordings of both games. They are pretty big, but worth a listen. I won't spoil it for you by telling you which group won...

Once I get some time, I shall get the conversion notes I made linked to up here too, as well as some photos!

::Edit - Some serious potty mouth is found on both recordings - you have been warned!::

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

State of Play - Shnecke's Wolves - June 18th and July 3rd, 2012

1/8/1472 – 00:25 – 00:35: The group pass through an unseen portal at some point along the “steps” into the chest, and find themselves suddenly under black, crushing water, at least 50' beneath the surface. For Varracuda, Lia and Thatari, this is a serious issue, as unlike the undead, they need to breathe....and there are sharks...aggressive, powerful sharks. It is cold, and everyone is disoriented by their sudden and unexpected immersion.

A difficult battle. A riptide current that snakes through the lake in which the group fight drags and batters those that get caught in it, and there are three types of shark; Endless Hungerers (massive, slow moving horrors that bloody with a single bite, and kill with two), Death Surgeons (smaller, sleek, rapid sharks that use deadly hit and run tactics, and who drag their victims deeper in to the crushing dark with each hit), and a single Stormhead (a large, hammer-headed beast who's overdeveloped ampulae lorenzii allow it unleash deadly blasts of lightning, stunning or killing nearby prey).

Adapting well to the dangerous and unusual environment, the group still struggle against the aquatic carnivores. Things get even tougher when Lia first breaks the surface of the water, and immediately takes a javelin to the head – thrown by one of two Shadrakuul cultists who have been drawn by the frantic action in the arrival pool. However, the group, aided by the hulking golem, manage to inflict enough damage to the sharks that they slink off to seek less aggressive prey. As for the two cultists, they meet a painful end when the assassin steps through the veil of reality to appear behind them, joined shortly after by a furious warlock, and tears into them, quickly ending their lives.  

More cultists can be heard running towards the chamber, their angry voices shouting in Aurym. Most of the group are still in the waters (and they are uncomfortably aware of the sleek shadows of more sharks gathering beneath their feet), and they begin to swim towards the slimy posts that support the platform on which the assassin and warlock stand.

A javelin suddenly blossoms from the assassin's shoulder, heralding the arrival of the Shadrakuulites, and realising that the slippery posts are going to present a difficult obstacle for the less athletic members of the party, Grigori orders Skull to clamber halfway up one, providing a tacky, but passable bridge to the top.

One by one the group climb over Skulls slimy mass, and pull themselves onto the platform. By this point, both Jaeger and Thatari have taken a good pounding, the cultists attacking in a mob. There are several different kinds of cultists. Some, like those before, wear armour made from shark skin and bone, and hurl javelins with expert precision. Others wear heavier armour, made more from bone than shark skin, and wield long, shark tooth tipped spears, whilst the most numerous appear to be normal people, dressed in ceremonial robes adorned with fish scales, who shriek with insane zeal as they stab at the group with bone daggers fashioned from megaladon teeth.

The tunnel that leads from the platform is low and at points narrow. The group initially struggle to form an offensive line that allows the most party members to strike at the cultists. However, as the dagger wielding drudges fall to the blades and tricks of the group (though only after inflicting some truly vicious wounds on both Thatari and the assassin; the tooth dagger leaving freely bleeding slashes, the sight of which seems to spur all the cultists into a berserk rage), they are able to form a solid defence, and soon, the defenders of the cult are broken.

All in all, it takes little over half a minute to crush the cultists, though most everyone has taken at least a few licks from their blades and fervour.

00:36 – 00:41: Catching their breath, and quickly looking over the corpses, the group are surprised when no more cultists come to greet them. Jaeger has got a glimpse of what lies ahead; the corridor hair-pinning to the north-east, before opening into a large cavern, dimly illuminated by a sourceless blue glow. It is hard to see much though, as the middle of the cavern is dominated by a strange altar of sorts; a huge mass of black basalt, covered in shark teeth and jaws, weapons, splinters of wood and bone and other pieces of chewed and shattered flotsam and jetsam. The assassin can just make out that in the eastern wall of the cavern, there is some kind of opening – either another tunnel, or a widening of the chamber into a much larger space. From this area can be heard distant sounds of weeping and coughing...

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Edition Wars Data Burst

Really rather interesting little bit of analysis of Google data regarding searches for D&D / Pathfinder

I personally reckon that Wizards would be better served creating new stuff for all existing editions of D&D than searching for a perfect new edition. However, I also understand that we will be having to keep umbrellas up to protect ourselves from porcine poop before this happens. A shame really. 

On another note, I have finished the conversion of S1 to 4e. Once the weekender is done, I will post a link to a copy of my conversion notes, though without a copy of the original, or, at least, This 3.0 Conversion, it will be next to useless! I'll try to remember to cut and paste in the stats for the monsters I converted too.