Monday, August 25, 2014

Session Report: The Worldgod Campaign [Island of Storms]

...wherein a great plot is revealed and the party chooses their fate...

The Party
Yurg - violent thief with a penchant for poison and vulgarity
Black Wilder - a low level thief making his way toward greatness
Wolfgang - a Cleric of the Insurgent One finding himself through battle
Darvik Who Is Tarlon - A mage reveling in his power and fighting corruption
Kyle - a stalwart warrior/thief struggling with leadership and Chen (his bow)

The Setup
It had been quite some time since the group had gotten together to play, so a quick recap.

The party was on a mission to kill the World God (who would eventually destroy the world and likely everything in the cosmos since it was a huge space demon that was trapped in the center of their world and strange minions of evil had been trying to free it plus there were some Beholders From Space, known as the Greyjax, that were also causing some problems).  They were following a previously undiscovered prophecy that they must travel in the footsteps of their previous lives to defeat this wickedness - first stop the Island of Storms to kill the Great Storm Serpent Aloo who, as fate would have it, was already slain by their previous lives.

After having landed and dealt with catpeople ghosts, wereboar samurai, a torrential never ending storm, a water elemental, and an army of undead (who now stand scattered around the forest waiting for someone to enter) the party found an old Legion of the Phoenix camp and settled in for the night.  The map indicating that the cave led to where they wanted to go.

As they camped a something, a gigantic spider by all accounts, whispered taunts and offered deals to everyone on watch.  Through conversation it was discovered that the creature worshiped Claire.  The story of Claire is an entire other blog post, but briefly: old party member, spider mage, was in love with Tarlon, suffered many backlash aberrations, was stoned by a basilisk and left behind, later to be found lost, has tormented the party for YEARS.

The sun has risen, the storm has stirred up, and the party is ready for spider mayhem.  The players are suitably nervous.

Adventure Highlights
After avoiding a log trap and a pit (100' down, spikes in an unknown depth of water with something living in it) the party stood in a large cave and encountered the first of the Spider Cult Goblins. The little bugger was painted black and white and had gemstones attached to his head to look more like a spider.  He becked the adventurers forward saying "peace" and "she calls".

 Of course it was an ambush.  The party laid waste to the goblins in short order because, well, they are a 9th level party and there were only a few goblins (4 melee, 3 with bows).  Of course the problem was the fact that everythign the goblins had was covered in some crazy debilitating poison. 

After taking a few captives and exploring a bit more the party came across a huge barrier built into the caves.  Heading back to where their captives were they found them being devoured by huge terrier-sized spiders.  Battle ensued and exploration of the other tunnel.

The adventurers came across a chamber with 6 of these huge spiders guarding what appeared to be a gigantic egg sack filled with hundreds of these huge spiders (some help from a special item let them in on the specifics).  It was decided to burn this shit to the ground.  Darvik pulled out his wand of Zeus and let loose with a huge chain lighting wide bolt at full strength.  The results were dramatic.

While the initial group of gigantic spiders was killed in a single stroke of the wand the huge egg sack split open spilling hundreds of the eight-legged horrors into the chamber.  While the egg sack did burst into flames there was still a tsunami of giant spiders rushing the party.  The battle was terrifying and if it weren't for Darvik and his wand it was likely going to go poorly.  Standing amidst a chamber full of smoking spider corpses the party made various faces of disgust and walked away back to the barrier.  Having luck with the wand it was then used to demolish the huge barrier as well.  Best magic item ever.

After making the previously encountered goblin their bitch (the thing was terrified of the adventuring party and no amount of religious fervor was going to change that) it led them to the temple where they worshiped Claire.

A huge statue to Claire was carved from the very rock itself and a moment later the party was engaged in a heated battle with two spider-headed trolls.  It could have gone otherwise, but hell - who doesn't want to kill trolls!  As the battle raged on the enormous pony-sized spider that had been taunting them the night before made an appearance and started ... wait for it ... casting spells!  It was ON!

As Black Wilder learned first hand that a troll doesn't die just because you cut his head off a wall of ice appeared separating Darvik from the rest of the group.  The battle raged on as much was revealed.  Claire still loved Darvik who is Tarlon and asked her to come away with him.  She had seen the face of the World God and he had shown her things.  Claire had set all these things in motion by traveling the gates back and forward in time to lay clues and paths to bring them here just so she could be with Tarlon.  If he would show his loyalty by helping her destroy his companions they could travel to another cosmos - abandon this one to the Xinthian and rule entire worlds together.  She pulled him into her weird spider arms and wanted to seal the deal with a kiss.

Important: This was a huge culmination of years of role playing.  B had to make a choice that could end the campaign once and for all with a massive TPK which would have been epic. This exact offer with a known NPC for exactly what the character wanted more than anything was a Hard Choice (HM is agame of hard choices).  As I chatted with B in the secret meeting I told him that we would rejoin the group and he would get to describe the scene.  Even I didn't know which way he would choose.

As the battle raged on the giant spell casting spider an army of skeletons, and two badass trolls were beating the hell out of the adventurers.  Yurg was flying around with his magic ring and stabbing folks, Kyle waded in and was doing his best to protect and slaughter, even Wolfgang was using his hammer with great effectiveness ... but everyhting stopped as the ice wall fell.

Tarlon, embraced in the numerous legs of Claire leaned in and kissed her deeply.  There was an audible gasp from the other players.  As the freaky make-out session continued the mage pulled his wand of Zeus and, point blank, blew a hole into the spider mage who loved him...

The battle petered out after that and it was a mop-up.  Yurg had managed to coup de grace Claire and was flying around with her severed head.  Darvik was shouting that "Evil will never triumph!" and the rest of the party was trying to take care of monster-based business. There was a LOT of fire.

With the battle ended, the party moved deeper into the temple and discovered the Gate that Claire had told Darvik of.  After much debate to go to the City of Portals, Midian, or the Machine Core itself they chose to move directly into confrontation with the worldgod itself.  The Gate Key vibrating and demanding action, it was placed and the gate began to open ...

Summary & GM Notes
Well ... that could not have gone better!  Everyone had a blast including me.  There was danger and choices that decided the fate of campaign and awesome fighting and the return and vanquishing of a villain who has plagued the party for years (about 5 years of real life).  Having a game like this reminds me why I love this hobby.  The party is off to the Machine Core to try and deal with the World God.  They still aren't entirely sure what they are going to do or how they are going to do it, but it should be excellent.

I need to get painting and get the minis ready for these games.  While I'm damn happy to be bringing this epic campaign to a close, I already know I'm going to miss these characters and the setting.  The Aldsburg campaign is fun and going to be the go-to for some time, but I think this campaign will be the crown jewel of my gaming career ... at least until I come up with another idea this fun (and have the ability to pull it off).

Damn that was a great session!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Mage Lineages in Eradu

I've let mages pick a specific totem to define their personality and use as a metaphor for creating new spells.  I'm trying out a new idea to keep things a bit more focused - lineage.  Within each lineage are a number of totems.  For example, Winter Mages learn from a lineage of the northmen and their totems and possible aberrations are similar.

Mage is the class, Lineage (four examples below) is the sub-class, and a Totem is the specialization. Totems and Aberrations are examples but surely not the extend of options.  Notes give a general feel for the mage and the quote hopefully seals the tonal deal.  Mechanically all of the mages work the same - this is entirely for flavor and role playing.

Totems: Ice, Snow, Wind, Rain, Storms, Lightning, Wolf, Bear

Aberrations: snow white hair, crystalline or blue skin, limbs made of ice, lightning issues from their mouth when they speak, they are always damp, hair and clothes being blown by an mysterious wind, radiate extreme cold, very susceptible to heat

Notes: The Winter mage is born of solitude and personal struggle.  Most discover their abilities during a time of intense isolation (either physical or mental).  The Winter mage holds most others in disdain and feels no allegiance to others of his ilk.

Quote: "When the razor snow rakes your skin and the wrath of Odin's lightning strikes your soul you may then know what a single thought of mine feels like."
image by devburmak (used without permission)

Totems: Fire, Stone, Steam, Lava, Cogs of the Earth, Serpent, Badger

Aberrations: bright red and orange hair, rough hewn skin, always in a haze of steam, everything touched begins to smoulder, teeth are stones, weep pebbles, limbs replaced with cogs and lever mechanisms, glowing eyes

Notes: Initiation rites of the Promythen Mage are harsh, some would say brutal, most would say strange and cruel.  There is a master & apprentice relationship that usually ends with the master's death.  The Promythean Mage takes no guff from anyone.

Quote: "Step across the line, milkback.  Please step across the line and show your pathetic friends that you aren't a kitten.  Come on over here and play with me."
image by jujusaurus (used without permission)

Totems: light, the sun, birds, open sky, celestial mechanics, astrology

Aberrations: moving tattoos, glowing skin, eyes are pinpoints of light, sprout wings, small objects orbit around head, eyes and mouth always wide open, always building or disassembling things, inability to articulate, obsessed with future events.

Notes: The Skyward are strange and esoteric mages.  They are seriously deficient when it comes to social interaction except with others of their kind.  They have gained insight into things that are so far beyond the comprehension of mortal man they simply don't think like the rest of folks any longer.

Quote: "I understand that the most recent 0.05e quantael shift within the aesthereal plane may have disturbed your interlaced cog contsruct, so I don't blame you for being so stupid."

image found on some blog, no credit given

Totems: fog, moon, starlight, dusk, night, quiet, bat, feline, darkness

Aberrations: flesh is cloudy, can only whisper, shadows engulf face, shadows flee from caster, cat eyes, bat teeth, aversion to daylight, eyes are tiny stars, breath is a black cloud

Notes:While not evil, Dusk Mages tend to walk on the darker side of humanity.  Often silent or, when they do speak, barely audible, the Dusk Mage keep to themselves.  Rumor has it there are elaborate temples where the Dusk Mage revels rival the most boisterous of Ilkori pirate celebrations.  But this is likely just a rumor.

Quote: "Shhh.  Quiet now.  Try not to struggle."

image found on some blog, no credit given

Session Report: The Aldsburg Chronicles [T4] which the GM decides that he needs to get things organized...

The actual adventure the was shaping up was, once again, derailed by morality arguments among characters.  ARG!  This game was 2 weeks ago and I'm just getting around to posting because while all of my players professed fun, it was not a game I enjoyed running.

This weekend we are playing the Worldgod Campaign but next Aldsburg Chronicles game I may reboot - new characters created as a group, redefine the tone as gritty but evil characters not being tolerated, and I'm even thinking of regnining in what had previously been a free-and-open magic style.

I think that I opened things up too quickly - a bit of solid direction and everyone making characters together as a party will help create a solid group of characters that play well together.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Session Report: The Aldsburg Chronicles [T3]

In which the party beheads an NPC, breaks up, reunites, and gets their asses beat.

The Party
Salty the Glaive
Grady (called Brook) the Fighter
Falin the Thief (halfling merchant-slave-escaped slave)
and eventually Brother Flint, Cleric of the Wyrd

Adventure Time: What do Murder Hobos get up to?
With all new characters (and 2 new players) I asked for what rumors and adventures the group new about.  When identification of a witch to behead her (more on that in a moment) came up, it seemed that Grady was definitely in the wrong group.  Salty informed the group of the following:

If you cut the head off a witch as she speaks the only truth she knows then sleep with the head, it will whisper secrets of legend and treasure to you.

Well ... that was too metal not to be true, so it simply had to be true.  But how to identify a witch?  Easy (again from Salty):
  1. She be a female
  2. She be comely
  3. She trade in the dark arts (or claims no to)
Once that ridiculous pile of qualifiers was played for laughs (while we grilled) and after much discussion, the party went to see Albonia, an NPC fortune teller known to the party.  She should know about some witches.

They run into some hoity-toity type on the way out of Albonia's place and end up not really interacting with him much other than some threats and internal bickering.  "Leave yer coin!" "Take your coin and go", and etc.  The party was not gellin'.

Long story short, Salty decides Albonia is DEFINITELY a witch and tries to cut off her head.  Grady intervenes and get glaived for some massive damage.  As Albonia begins to cast a spell Salty charges.  As Albonia begins to pull fire from her mouth and throw it on the about to be incinerated 1st level character he decides to tackle her instead.  Some awesome dice later and Albonia is unconscious and burned up, Albonia's house is a bit charred, Salty is unconscious and fried, Grady is in some trouble, and Falin, who has been skulking about, looted a bit and saved everyone.

Grady promptly stomped off to tattle to whatever authorities he could find while Salty removed the Albonia's head.  Brother Flint (same player, better suited character for the party) showed up for his weekly "meeting of spiritual guidance meeting" with Albonia.  He dealt with the near-arson definite-murder pretty well.

That night Salty sleeps with the head.  There was a gruseome interaction between Salty the not-so-bright fighter and a severed head that was cursing his name, vomiting and leaking black goo on everything while rambling semi-incoherent secrets.  In the end, he got some things that the rest of the party translated into an adventure!

Adventure Time Part II: Plans and Actions and Violence
Translating the mad rumblings of a severed head (now incidentally pickled in brine) the party determines that the Magnolia Street Runners have some connection with "the ratmen" of the undercity who worship a great idol with horns of gold that can be used to control the ratmen.  Sounds like more treasure than one man can handle - thank the gods there are a party of adventurers.

Brother Flint gets Salty anointed into the Undying Shrine (and picks up a sweet bonus from Father Finch who runs the place).

There is much observation and spying and clever shenanigans which end with Salty being hired by the MSR to gurd a shipment (of human garbage).  After the following and investigation the party finds a pit the humans are dumped into.  Some exploration finds them un the undercity/underworld.  A pair of skeletal ratmen are controlled by Brother Flint's powers (after a vicious stabbing) and someone/something shoots a crossbow into Salty's back.  There is also the discovery of a trap door in a cellar that when opened reveals two middle aged men (now dead, guts spilled all over the damn place).

One of them died right before the classic Hackmaster cry of: "I WASTE HIM WITH MY CROSSBOW!"  It was a thing of beauty.  The teen-age girl they were arguing with screams, they close the trap door.  Finding little on the gents other than pit stink and red ink tattos of a stylized rat head, the severely wounded party decides to get the hell out of deathtown and back to the surface.

Adventure over, a good time was had by all (except "Goody Goody Grady").

Lessons Learned & GM Notes
1. I trust my players to make characters from a mechanics standpoint, but characters should be made as part of a group activity.  I this the session would have had a better flow if we didn't have the party conflict (although it wouldn't have been as bloody & fire infused).

2. I need a way to encourage the "improv" and "player agency" aspects of how I want to run this campaign.  Any suggestions?

3. I should have some additional material ready to go.  I'm going to start each session with 3 rumors AFTER I hear what the PC rumors are.  Oh yea - I'm going to have each player begin the session with a possible adventure rumor they create and reward it with Karma if it is badass.  No award for "the merchant's daughter has been kidnapped" but definitely an award for "Sally fourtoes, known to have been sleeping with at least 3 guys here on the Iron streets and possibly with a hat from the Guildhall, went missing after she got into a gnarly verbal brawl in the Low Market with Ketty Fells who everyone knows is has witchy powers.  Some say that lump on her back is actually her twin!"

4. Tracking all of this is getting tough.  The wiki should help, but I need to encourage players to get in there as well.  Time to have a computer ready at the game table.