Monday, June 30, 2008

My Two Copper Pieces

First of all I want to say thank you to Candi and Mr. Nymberg for spending so much time on creating something that we three humble gamers and Mike had the privilege of being first to utilize. Thank you very much.

Now the review: I have to echo many of the things Ademar stated in his personal review, although there are a few things I disagree with. This isn't due to a misperception on his part as much as it is a mistake on my part in clarification.

Firstly, the detail level throughout was simply incredible. From the floor tiles to the wall relief to the runic writing on the sarcophagi to the little table and chair pieces that we (sadly) couldn't utilize in our short gaming session I was simply floored by the attention and time spent putting it all together. Anyone who didn't know better would think that the entire set was lovingly crafted by lifelong gamers who worked as professional craftsmen. Seriously, and with all due respect to my friend and her father, when I opened the box and went through its contents Saturday evening I couldn't find the appropriate words to describe it to my wife who was standing right next to me, I ended up settling for "It's a gamer's wet dream." and I meant it in the best possible way. If I had had this as a kid, oh man, I would've been a legend in my gaming circle.

Secondly, the scaling was just short of perfect. Our miniatures fit exactly as they should have on each 1x1 square. The sarcophagi were the right height and, had it come into play, would've accurately portrayed the necessary positioning regarding cover. (My gamer comrades will know what I mean). I wish I had realized that the wall sections with the circle of wire (sans chain) inserted were in fact wall sconces for the torches you provided. Would've made a nice touch, but I'm an idiot. I can't wait to use the chair and table pieces.

Thirdly, generally its been my experience that you have to suffer quantity when you create a quality product or vice-versa but this is certainly not the case here. Aside from what I believed to be a genuinely purchase-worthy product in quality I could not believe the sheer bloody volume of items you created and included. I estimated, probably inaccurately, that the equivalent of Dwarven forge materials would've costed nearly three thousand gold pieces based on what I know of them. It was an experience just removing the various pieces form the (excellently engineered) packaging provided.

Lastly, the working guillotine was freakin' sweet!

And now for the sake of critique:

I agree that the coals may be impractical but I still plan to give them a go. It will be interesting to see how much of the stuff remains after being used in game sessions a few times. As a suggestion, perhaps gluing some permanently to future fire pits/funeral pyres etc might be the more practical approach. It remains to be seen however as I plan to use what we have in the near future.

Also, a little variation in color would be nice. Not so much on the walls and floor tiles because I'm aware that it was created for something I specifically asked for, but (and I didn't even notice this until I tried to take pictures of it) a different shade on the sarcophagi or the giant skulls for the sake of contrast. Nitpicking I know, but just for future reference.

I understand that they are on the way, but I agree with Cor'Nal that large pieces (varying in degree of size) would help immensely especially if they're marked in delineated 1"x1" squares like the others, when it comes to prep time. The only true drawback to the set we have currently is the investment in time required to put it together. I have theories on how to greatly reduce this that I've yet to put into practice. Cor'Nal, I believe, actually suggested Sunday that when you begin selling these sets that you perhaps create place tops of various sizes with lids (like a cake holder) to hide the pre-created set-pieces the DM puts together pre-session in order to cut down on time and preserve the surprise factor. I'm taking that idea one step further and suggesting that if created, these concealers could be made from sturdy cardstock and painted on the outside with various fantasy images a'la our DM screens. Of course this would probably drive Mike insane and I'd have to hide a security guard to keep him from peeking during my restroom/cookie breaks but I digress.

I personally thought the sarcophagi were just fine with depressions but when Ademar mentioned it raised relief and opening lids on them sounds like a really good idea as well. But I wouldn't stop creating them as you did.

Getting to what Ademar had said: About the scale of the candles, they were actually exactly what I'd requested. Reason being: Have you ever been to a Catholic ceremony of any kind? The candles are friggin' huge! My vision was for the first set Candi and Mr. Nymberg made to be that of an underground temple/church for priests and worshippers of a dark order, where black sermons and sacrifices to the gods of murder and destruction could take place. So, in truth the candles are to scale. Probably not interchangeable with future instances, but correct for the specs I provided. I didn't mention this because, frankly, you guys aren't suppose to know yet. Sorry, my bad.

In Summation: All in all on the positive side I think this was a triumphant first run for your "prototype". I feel honored to have been a (admittedly small) part of its creation as well as the first DM to put it to use. I am ashamed to admit that it was more than I ever thought it could be.

The level of immersion that this holds the potential for creating is staggering. I speak for my entire gaming group when I say that we will be thrilled to playtest any and all items that you present us with in the future. Please keep it coming (and let us know when you're ready to sell!).

A Review

Well, last nights session was surprising on many levels. The most pleasant of which was a gift of sorts from people that few of us have ever even met. The dm revealed some awesome new eye candy for us to ogle over. 3-d dungeon tiles! Let me say on the record, these things looked very professional and extremely well built. The detail was incredible. If the dm had not said anything about their origins I would have thought he lost his mind and bought $1000 worth of stuff from The Red Dragon or something. It turns out that it was all scratch built to the dm's specs! Simply amazing!

The good:
-Very high degree of detail
-Tiles fit together very well
-The everburning flame rocked!
-Felt durable and solidly constructed
-Good variety of pieces
-The doors open!!

The not-so-good (I didn't see anything I would consider bad):
-The scale on the candlesticks was way off, too large
-Using the gravel for coals is a good idea but I don't think it will work well in practice
-Sarcophagi would have looked better with raised relief patterns not depressions
-I didn't see a use for the torches (no wall sconces) and they were a little large also

-Removable lids for sarcophagi
-Curved wall sections (not every tunnel/corridor is straight)
-More "play testing" time!
-Floor tiles larger than 2x2 would speed up build time of larger rooms

As you can see most of this stuff is nitpicking, overall this tile set blew my mind, it was great! It looked like a ton of time and effort went into this project. A big thank you goes out to the R&D team behind this product!

Friday, June 27, 2008

The past to Cor'Nal Utharo

Cor'Nal was born August 2nd in the heart of Kemmermere during one of the worst rain storms the area had seen in centuries. He was the only child born to Legawyn and Nydia Utharo. His family lived in a small hovel outside of the towns. His father worked as a messenger, traveling between the larger cities of the great forest they called home, while his mother worked at their home doing the daily chores and raising a garden to support the family and earn a little extra coin.

As the years passed and Cor'Nal grew older his father started to take him on some of the shorter messenger runs and his mother opened a small store for herself in one of the great forests small cities. While out in the forest Legawyn taught Cor’Nal to live off what was available to him and not to waste anything. While on their messenger runs Legawyn noticed something strange happening. He noticed that there were more numerous animals nearer to where they would travel and make camp and unlike usual they weren't hostile, they seemed curious. As time went on he noticed that these events only happened when Cor’Nal was with him. He noticed that Cor'Nal could calm a horse with just a touch or tame a wild dog with but a few words and with that Legawyn and Nydia knew that they had no normal child but a child with great gifts that had been bestowed by Kutenai himself.

At the age of 70 Cor'Nal was trained by his father and mother not only in the ways of the wild but also in the art of sword play and the ways of their god. By the age of 75 Cor'Nal had exceeded his parents and was sent out for further teachings in the great city of Sanctuary where he was further trained by a man known as Lythalruil (Ly=wolf, thal=healer, ruil=noble) a close friend to his father and a man known as a fine blades man but a wild man. Over the next ten years Cor'Nal trained hard under Lythalruil learning that his gift was more than just to attract animals but he could calm them and call them to his aid. He also learned that like a Cleric he could heal small wounds and like a mage he could cause small amounts of harm if needed but he still couldn't control his powers.

On one late fall morning Lythalruil and Cor'Nal were surprised to see Legawyn standing before them bearing a message. The high Council was calling for Lythalruil to aid the great forest. So at the age of 85 Cor'Nal returned with his father as a skilled swordsman and man of the wild. It was a joyous event for Legawyn and Nydia to have there son back once more but they knew that it wouldn't last long. It was only a few months after his return that his parents noticed that Cor'Nal was restless and that being stuck in one place not using what he learned was taking its toll on him. So late one evening over their supper Cor’Nal's parents bid him to go out into the world and use the gifts Kutenai had given him to explore and to make a name for himself. So, with there blessing that is what he did that very next morning.

In the next 10 years that followed Cor'Nal hadn't made a name for himself or his family yet but he had been traveling and had traveled all the way east to the Vesbeeg forest. Once there he planned to travel north but stopped in the Twin Towns first, where there was a struggling farmer that he knew could use some help. For the next 4 seasons he stayed until Dorian Haysted the owner of the farm fell ill with a fever and passed away. Once again Cor'Nal was alone and back on the road heading north as he had planned.

Cor'Nal made it as far as the forest of Little Wood in the Halfling republic of Murgar in the next 6 years. While there he started to hear that the real adventures were up in the frozen north and that’s when he knew where he needed to be. Once again he headed out but this time he felt like he had purpose and a place to be. He abandoned the easy, slow, pace that he had been going at for so long and began moving more swiftly than ever before.

Cor'Nal also found that his powers were becoming more controlled and easier to focus upon; he even picked up an eagle he named Kordre (Kor=black, dre=charm) as a traveling companion for some time. In just a little over 2 years time Cor'Nal made it all the way back to the Dwarven kingdom of Thorak which was nestled in the same mountains that bordered the Great Forest of Kemmermere. It was from there that he headed north until reaching the Town of Goodale in just a years time which was a slower pace than he had wanted to go. His pace slowed greatly with home so close by, he was often tempted to return to his friends and family after 22 long years on the road. While in the town of Goodale Cor'Nal was still hearing the stories of the adventure to be had in the north and the stories of the people who said that they had been there and were planning to return there once the winter was over just as Cor'Nal was planning to do. The following spring Cor'Nal headed out alone once more only to get to the nearby forest before befriending a young timber wolf he named Besali (Bes=Oath, ali=shadow) and over the next couple of months taught it a few tricks like how to carry a pack and how to hunt as a pair rather than a pack as well as how to stay or move at Cor’Nal’s call.

After about 6 months, and while he was finishing up training with the wolf Cor’Nal Spotted something out of place in the forest he had been in for so many months. He and his new companion started toward what looked to be a sleeping elf, a strange sight this far north and all alone. Cor'Nal was paying more attention to the weird sight than to where he was walking and stepped onto an old dried branch that snapped and in that instant; the lone elf awoke and sprung up swinging around long sword in hand. In the same instant Cor'Nal had his scimitar in hand facing the unknown elf. After what seemed like a few minutes Cor'Nal and the lone elf seemed to recognize one another. It was Cor'Nal that spoke first asking if the elf was from the Great Forest of Kemmermere and with a couple of other similar questions found that this elf was an old acquaintance of his by the name of Ademar Helyanwë. After eating breakfast together and chatting it seemed as if Ademar was hiding something or searching for something that he didn't want anyone to know about. If it hadn't have been for Ademar saying that his last name was Nightwalker rather than Helyanwë Cor’Nal would have never questioned anything. It didn't matter much to Cor'Nal that Ademar didn't want to give him the truth about what he was doing so far north it was just good to have another companion of the same race again.

As the season got longer the pair decided to wait out yet another winter in the safety of the town of Goodale which meant another year passed without Cor'Nal beginning to make a name for his family. The very next summer the pair continued on traveling north when they stumbled upon a confused half-Orc, lost in the forest. After much debate, they approached the beast, attempting to discern his motivation. Although dim-witted, the half-Orc, Vrock, was extremely gifted physically and offered no resistance to the Elven pair in their questioning. Vrock only wanted out of the woods and the elves saw an opportunity to add a measure of protection to their small party. Now a trio, the group pressed out of the deep forests and onto well traveled roads moving more easily on their journey north.

Finally on his way north the feeling Cor'Nal had just a few years ago for adventure are returned anew and with new companions by his side he is more confident than ever that he's going to be able to make a name for his family.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Magic of Polls II

Ok. Blah, blah, blah, more poll stuff.

What we know:

Everyone seems happy with our campaign balance: You guys heart your DM. Gay!

Some people think it would be cool if Vrock were to be resurrected, others aren't so keen: Yeah, as much as I liked Vrock I think he's best left as a crispy critter. He died a good, albeit senseless, death.

The DM isn't being stingy with loot: Yeah right, butt-kissing won't get you more magic stuff guys!

Not everyone voted but for those that did, Patch smacking Fengis with the iron pot was the funniest moment so far: I agree, I nearly peed myself over that.

Patch will kill Ryan MacBrady in three sessions or less: He says he's not a bloodthirsty mongrel. Maybe we'll soon see the sensitive side of Patch. Or, maybe not.

All three PC's want to go in a different direction: Seriously, everybody voted something different. I voted on going further north. My vote doesn't count.

I'm still the DM as you haven't decided to fire me: Are you sure Mikey isn't available?

Forward any poll ideas to my email. I'll be deleting the closed polls and posting new ones shortly.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The History of Atalanxia Part II

A negotiation lasting nearly five years brought the elven nation of Kemmermere into the New Atalanxian fold. They remained sovereign with the promise of Atalanxian protection through an arranged marriage between the unmarried Emperor and an elven princess by the name of Sylis'Tar. The two governments remained separate in name, however highly influential ambassadors, deeply loyal to the Emperor held sway over elven foreign policy. More specifically, favoring anything to do with Atalanxia. The elves sent influential politicians from the governments of Sanctuary and The Citadel of Mist to serve as ambassadors in the Atalanxian capital, believing their strong leadership skills and personalities would allow them to influence historically weak-willed human leaders into favorable arrangements for the elves. It wasn't long however before the ambassadors were corrupted by Ent'Ara's overwhelming charisma and, unwittingly perhaps, began serving the needs of Atalanxia before that of Kemmermere.

The xenophobic Tel'Quessir (common elves) felt safe with the protection of an alliance with Ent'Ara yet proud in the belief that they remained an independent nation separate from the Atalanxian Empire that was spreading like wildfire throughout the continent. This was far from the truth however.

Attin Ent'Ara's influence over the elven ambassadors allowed him to gain indirect control over their military and he made use of it very early in the alliance. In order to maintain the facade of self-reliance the elven military was never utilized near the capital city. Instead, the Emperor deployed it in areas near the elven nation, serving the dual function of perpetuating the image of elven independence as well as Atalanxian self-reliance as empirical pride spread nearly as fast as the Atalanxian borders themselves. He started by sweeping through the wilds of the region north of Kemmermere in what is now southern Westheath. Elven archers cleansed the countryside of orcs and kobolds driving them into the mountains of The Broken Lands, setting in motion the events that would lead to the destruction of Dweo'Morak and the ultimate sacking of Temberdor.

Years after most all demi-human races deemed "Enemies of The Peace" had been obliterated or chased from the region, Ent'Ara waged a secret war against the plainsmen, who at times had assisted the elves in their cleansing of southern Westheath. It is believed that their lack of civilized leadership made him wary of his own citizens coveting a similar desire for lawlessness, and their lack of centralized government gave them no hope of forming a cultural alliance with Atalanxia. The Emperor used their tribal culture and historically feudal relationships with their own kind against them. The smallest, most peaceful tribes were wiped out first, leaving the three strongest tribes; Red Falcon, Wandering Bear and Stone Monkey, to fight with themselves over the remaining territory. During the height of the warring between the three factions the existing members of all three tribes dropped below one hundred and eventually the once-proud (and strongest of the remaining three) Red Falcon tribe were wiped out altogether thanks to a brief alliance between Wandering Bear and Stone Monkey. At the realization that self-inflicted genocide was upon them, the remaining tribes disappeared from the eye of civilization.

The two tribes eventually returned, along with their hatred for one another, and still exist today.

*There are some today who insist that they are of pure Red Falcon ancestry, although this is disputed by most with any knowledge of history.

*Michaelangelo, former King of Eystlund, created the Red Falcon Guard. An elite personal guard named as an homage to the dead tribe.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The History of Atalanxia Part I

Although historians can reach further back in time to document events that helped shape the world as it is today, it is undoubtedly the time of the Ent'Aran Dynasty that they all look to as the greatest example of the shift in culture and rise of advancements in mechanics, engineering, sorcery and medicine that go far beyond any preceding era and unquestionably any era since.

The Ent'Aran Dynasty began over four thousand years ago in the southwestern-most area of the continent in a region that is now known as Toryth Vol. Within a scant few years the influence of the Dynasty spread out far to eastern coast and into the north. Soon the entirety of the southern region of the continent, save for Kemmermere, was under the rule of the self-proclaimed Emperor. A human man by the name of Attin Ent'Ara.

Allegiances were formed with sovereign nations. First with the elves of Kemmermere and secondly, once the elves had joined, the halflings of what is now known as Murgar eagerly came aboard. The dwarves unexpectedly however, held out of the alliance, an unfortunate decision in which the effects are still felt to this day.

All nations that came over Ent'Aran rule were expected to show fealty, and this among the dwarves usual reasons of paranoia, were why they refused to join the alliance. This fealty the elves were somehow able to negotiate around, and so they remained sovereign while retaining the benefits of alliance with the Emperor. It was made clear later after an arranged marriage between Attin Ent'Ara and an elven princess as to how this arrangement was made. It was widely rumored that the Emperor coveted longevity in his line, and thought the mixture of races to be the perfect opportunity to achieve this.

For years peace reigned over the southern part of the continent. Criminals were dealt with harshly and many races were deemed "Enemies of The Peace" and Ent'Ara's military and constabulary were ordered to "Kill on Sight" any races to be deemed "evil" under Ent'Aran law. Any citizen caught dealing with these outlaw races were called treasoners and hung as punishment. Some without benefit of trial.

The warlike aggression shown towards kobolds, orcs and ogres forced them to form a crude union. Together they fled by the thousands northward to escape the reach of Enta'Ara's influence into what is now the Dodanna Freelands, and into the mountains of the Old Dwarven Kingdom then known as Dweo'Morak (Translated to Common: Dwarvenhome), where a massive army of ogres and orcs struck. A three year siege ensued but the dwarves were eventually overrun and forced to leave their mineral rich mountain ranges, fleeing to an area north of The Broken Lands, far less rich in precious metals, the place now known as The Kingdom of Thorak. Those that stayed behind in Dweo'Morak were either slaughtered or enslaved. Generations of enslaved dwarves, twisted by incest and sunlight deprivation created the race of dwarves known as the duergar.

During the siege many dwarven pages escaped, fleeing to what was now called "New Atalanxia" (although no one could recall an historically original Atalanxia) to plead with Emperor Ent'Ara for military assistance. Due to the dwarves early refusal to ally, and since the fleeing pages didn't have the governmental authority to swear fealty themselves, they were not granted an audience and were turned away. Most of the pages did not survive the return home.

This refusal caused a rift between human and dwarven relations still felt to this day, four millennia later.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Twisting. Turning. Through The. Laandsraad.

*Excerpt taken from Metallica's "Through The Never" used without permission and Lars can bite my bum.

So this week the companions searched for Fengis, traversed a small part of The Laandsraad, left Snoam-Schlabach to deal with their own war, stole a cart full of stuff and added a couple of unlikely party members.

Quite a week. You managed to remove an entity likely responsible for allowing the community to prosper on any level, took what little goods said entity might have had that could help them (save for some dead weight you couldn't really use) in a cart you also illegally procured and on the way out of town, they thanked you for it!

Recap: The session started out with a return visit to Fengis' warehouse under the pretense of investigation but more likely for the illegal procurement of...stuff. Said stuff included a small iron pot with a handle, a few pounds of tobacco, some Zeifen Pipeweed (a known, mild narcotic grown in Alfheim and Manchrist) a map, some bread and a wheel of cheese. But no sap, much to the chagrin of Patch.

Now all you need is a pipe and some crackers.

A map was also taken from the secret humidor that apparently leads to Tonguescum's camp. He sounds like a nice guy. Cor'Nal wants to visit him. Apparently quite badly. Cooler heads keep Cor'Nal from walking into a three vs. fifty war however and instead of tracking him down to "Inquire about his business relationship with Fengis" the rest of the party suggests that they ask Fengis himself as the odds of surviving such an encounter with him seem exponentially greater. Besides, Piter wants the party to find him and bring him back, alive, at all costs. Reluctantly they agree (they'd much rather bring him back dead) and set off to The Laandsraad.

Almost immediately after setting foot in the barren, desolate wasteland of spires and rocky plateaus the party is ambushed by two rock-throwing hill giants. A very long battle ensues and Cor'Nal turns himself into an eagle flies above them and pretty much wipes 'em out with a pair of Call Lightning spells. It takes a while but the bolts take their toll and the giants fall without a single melee attack damaging them. A couple ranged weapon attacks from Ademar and Patch did land however.

After dispatching the giants the party moves eastward, ignoring the path heading northward into a snow-cave, choosing instead to hurry along following Fengis' trail. They move along in a narrow valley between two imposing slopes of snow that could potentially cause a campaign-ending avalanche if too much noise happens to disturb them. They move along quietly and make it to the other side. Afterward they head due north and find Fengis, alongside the trail in a clearing beside a fire he'd made near his wagon. After a short discussion in which Fengis makes it clear he will not be going back to Snoam-Schlabach he is persuaded by Patch to change his mind as he brains Fengis over the head with the "found" iron pot. (No sap after all!) Fengis is rendered unconscious and cracks his head on his wagon on the way down but is otherwise unhurt.

The party decides to camp there for the night. Cor'Nal needs to rest and pray for spells and Ademar is banged up after eating a few hill giant boulders. While Cor'Nal is meditating (elves don't sleep after all), Patch decides to ransack Fengis trailer while Fengis snores peacefully in the tent they pitched for shelter from the cold. Ademar who is supposed to be on watch, joins in the fun. He begins to search for weapons and in so doing cleans out almost the entire contents of the wagon. He finds quite a few useful things but no weapons (or sap) that he finds interesting enough to, uh, borrow. During the poaching of the wagon he makes enough noise to wake Fengis, who begins to make noise through his gag.

Patch rushes in and begins to interrogate Fengis. Fengis is bound and cannot move and answers Patch's questions. Patch doesn't like the answers and so tells Fengis to go back to sleep and cracks Fengis a second time with his iron pot (nee sap). This time, instead of rendering Fengis unconscious the pot doesn't do enough damage and instead knocks him retarded. His eyes go all wonky and instead of speaking his head lolls back his mouth opens and long, deep moans of "waaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!" emanate from the mouth of the apparently brain-damaged merchant. Ademar comes in and asks Fengis if he is alright, Fengis replies with "uuuuuuuhhhhhnnnnngggggggg!" This goes on way too long. Eventually Fengis is healed by Cor'Nal and made right.

The next day the group decide to head back to Snoam-Schlabach, the trip takes two days. More than enough time to avoid Piter's war, which was exactly their intentions. Apparently Snoam-Schlabach was the winner although heavy losses were felt on either side. Strangely, there was no sign of Tonguescum's orcs.

Immediately upon return to the town the party visits Piter who is again seriously injured, presumably during the battle with Schudlichton and is bedridden. Ryan is also badly wounded, his arm in a sling. The majority of the MacBrady clan are collecting and organizing the dead for their funeral pyres. At first there is some resistance at letting the party in, however Piter is expecting them and so they are allowed to enter, unescorted. A rare honor that of course goes unnoticed. Piter is found in his bed, his midsection wrapped in cloth bandages. He is pale, infection is almost certain to kill him. After a brief discussion, Fengis is brought before him. He somberly admits selling tainted feed to the citizens of the town but assures Piter that he had no choice as Tonguescum's agents would've killed him had he not. Piter commands the party to leave he and Fengis alone. It is unclear what Piter's intentions are but execution seems very likely.

Cor'Nal stays behind just outside Piter's estate while the rest of the party heads to Frost Bit Inn where they collect the rest of their belongings. It has become clear at this point that they do not intend to ever return to Snoam-Schlabach. Patch has convinced the rest of the party that they should head south to the Olde Snoam Mine and attempt reentry into the MacBrady Tomb, from there, anywhere but here.

While Patch collects the heavy stuff Ademar somehow convinces the long-white-bearded, nightshirt and nightcap-clad Loomis to temporarily leave his affluent innkeeper's existence and drive their extra wagon to Whitehall Camp. Loomis agrees to do it for five gold pieces on the condition that they buy him some pants, as its "cold outside this time of year, HEH!" Ademar agrees.

While outside Piter's estate the wounded Ryan MacBrady approaches Cor'Nal. He tells of his lust for adventure beyond this town he calls home. He believes that he has outgrown the small existence this region provides and wishes to seek glory in faraway lands and meet interesting people he can kill without fear or regret. Cor'nal tells him that as long as he behaves he doesn't see any reason why not, but he'll have to consult his companions first. Ryan sees no problem with this and encourages it. Cor'Nal then convinces Ryan to let him back in to Piter's home under the pretense that Piter needs healing. Cor'Nal really just wants to know if Piter executed Fengis.
He did not, much to Cor'Nal's surprise. When he enters Piter's chamber, Piter asks Ryan to hole Fengis up in the root cellar beneath the estate. After they leave Cor'Nal heals Piter. The party then went around town giving gifts that formerly belonged to Fengis to friends they've made in town. They attempted to head into Magda's "Homebound" tavern but found it to have been converted into a triage for the battle with Schudlichton. They left some iron and copper ore with the blacksmith.

*I know something else happened after this but I don't seem to have any recollection of it. If you remember please post comments or email me so I can finish this recap. Also it seems I might be missing some details during the session that occurred earlier. Its late in the day for me and I didn't sleep well so my mind is foggy. Help!-DM*

4.0: The Continuing Saga

This actually started as a response to a comment by E under the 4.0 posting he left last week. It got a little long, as you can see I have quite a lot to say about a rule-set I’m truthfully unfamiliar with (for the most part). I’d like to sit here and take a “wait and see” approach to the new system, but I can’t realistically expect a company that screwed my childhood obsession up so badly with countless inane rules and clear exploitation of their rabid (and sometimes inexplicably loyal) fanbase not to continue this legacy with their ham-fisted approach to this “New Direction”.

E. really struck a nerve with this subject.

Anyway, if you haven’t yet seen his comment, here it is, followed by my reply:

After more research I have come across this:
Other Power Sources: Additional power sources and techniques provide characters of different classes with powers and abilities. These will appear in future Player’s
Handbook volumes. For example, barbarians and druids draw on the primal forces of nature, monks harness the power of their soul energy (or ki).

Of course you guys have probably read this already. Looks like job security for the guys at Wizards, strike two...

And now my reply:

This is precisely what I expected and feared. What could we possibly expect from a company who also ruined their own card game by the constant issuing of new sets and expansions that flooded retailers and imbalanced the game? Expect more of this kind of exploitation. I predict the "Complete Gnome" players handbook to be announced within weeks along with an apology for not including what they will describe as "An unfortunate underestimation of the immense popularity of the gnome race amongst our vast and appreciated fan base. We promise that oversights like these will no longer occur here at WoTC. Now look for the Minotaur monster race to be included in our Monster Manual II, due out next September!" It’s all BS. I understand an American company’s drive to make money, I mean they don't create these games just because they share our passion for gaming. They're in it to make a buck and have every right to do so, but don't take us for idiots. We know why these books are so much slimmer than those of v3 and 3.5. Because the issuing of regular supplements are where their profit margins become larger. The crime this time, unlike in past versions of D&D, is that the supplements are now a requirement to own. Especially now that they've got us hooked on the crack that is the Barbarian and Druid classes that they've conveniently left out of their "Core" rulebooks. What a joke. It used to be that supplements were only for class enthusiasts (the reason I bought Tome and Blood for my mages, it was the only player handbook supplement that I ever owned) the truly “Hardcore” or completist pricks that had the disposable income and the retarded fascination with owning everything ever released by TSR, WoTC etc.. With one exception I never bought the supplements, and truthfully never needed to. And I was thankful to TSR and WoTC for only dangling the carrot instead of jamming it down our throats as they’re doing now.

This “New Direction” better be worth it or you’ll be finding my books on faster than the Wizard of The Coast can cast “Power Word: Enchant and Exploit Fan Base”.

Monday, June 9, 2008


I have been reading The Order of the Stick comics and this came to mind. Just thought I'd share my attempt at humor...

Friday, June 6, 2008


O.k. I have voiced a pretty strong opinion on this subject. You guys know that I'm not very enthused by the upcoming version of D&D. I recently had a fairly long conversation with Mike about it and discovered that it may not be as bad as I thought. Well I was browsing today and found this blog posting. I'm not sure that this guy has hard facts but what he writes is mostly in line with the perception I've had of version 4.0. I see this as being a topic we will face in the not so distant future so why not start the conversation now? Here is the post, I just copied and pasted it. Please duscuss.

These days, hack-n-slashers already have nirvana in the form of MMORPGs like World of Warcraft. WoW is all about combat, alone or in groups, for 15 minutes or 15 hours, ready at the click of a mouse. No setup time, no gathering friends around the table, no rules-lawyering or a Dungeon Master that wants to do a “talky bits” session this week. WoW is stripped down, pure, accelerated, uber-convenient hank-n-slash on demand.

So, naturally, D&D 4.0 is designed for hack-n-slashers. Wizards of the Coast acts like the only thing drawing tabletop roleplayers away to online games is the fact that MMORPGs don’t make you gather around a physical table at one place and time. So, they build you a virtual table with virtual miniatures and a virtual map. They’ll force upon you virtual dice, even though dice are the most superstitiously guarded and personal item any tabletopper owns. Sure, D&D 4.0 still requires that a DM build out the map, and that players roll up a character beforehand and that everyone be available at the same time. But, hey, at least everyone doesn’t have to be at the same house or game shop, and for that convenience all Wizards of the Coast asks is that all the players buy into their software and service and upload their characters into the system. I mean, yeah, this does require an investment in 4.0 rulebooks, and you still have the time scheduling issue and the learning-the-rules issue. Oh, and you have to give up your lucky dice and abandon all your house rules and custom character sheets. And you don’t get the tangential social benefit of actually seeing your friends and passing around the snack bowl.

D&D 4.0: We won’t make you leave the house anymore.

And this is going to fell the juggernaut that is World of Warcraft?

If Wizards of the Coast had any sense, they would have gone in the opposite direction with D&D 4.0, celebrating everything about the game that can’t be codified and automated. In a tabletop game, you can abandon the script at any moment. A good Dungeon Master can wing it, adapt, improvise, and keep up with a group of real, live human players who aren’t just in it for a analog version of Diablo II. Strip down the rules, beef up the character development. If you want online tools, design them to make character creation–not graphics creation–easier. Stop treating D&D like a vehicle to sell miniatures and prefab module adventures when there’s no way static maps and immobile figures can compete with 3D landscapes and animated, interactive avatars. Stop trying to beat MMORPGs on their terms, and beat them on yours.

Oh, and accept the fact that the 1970s are over, and D&D is never going to be the dominant geek hobby again. The future is now. Let’s roll.

Author: Jay Garmon

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Magic of Polls

I started the polls because I wanted to get honest input on certain things that I don't usually get during our gaming sessions. Data mining can be a difficult task from my standpoint as a DM because during a session, it can take the PC's out of their suspension of disbelief. And who wants to come back to reality during gameplay? I know I don't. So, I thought these polls on the blog sidebar would be a good way to get real answers from the PC's in our group (as well as input my own opinions) without fear of retaliation or pressure from other members of the group. The poll answers are completely anonymous and only on the silly polls are people allowed to vote more than once.

So if you want your say on a subject I bring up don't hesitate to participate and if you would like me to bring a question to poll email me. I'll be happy to oblige and will use discretion if you like.

So anyway, the real intent of this post is to evaluate what we've learned through polls so far but once again I've blabbed on and bored you all to tears, if you are still reading at this point here goes...

What we know...

Vrock was NOT a pansy: That poll was a landslide.
We're not sure whether or not we want a fourth party member.: We'll try that one again soon.
Everybody Hates Ryan.: People aren't thrilled about Fengis either and my wife hated Anna.
The guy with the beard at the bar did not offer his name.: Will he eventually?
We DO NOT want outsiders (those not involved in the campaign) submitting posts (leaving comments is OK however).: We made the right choice here I think.

Well, that's it so far. I'll keep leaving polls if you keep submitting answers. Remember, I will leave polls for the sole purpose of making a joke occasionally, but this will be an invaluable tool for me to get the real answers from you that I need to do a better job. Utilize it and keep in mind that all answers are anonymous, and you won't hurt my feelings with honesty.


Monday, June 2, 2008

Ding-Dong the Witch is Dead

This weeks recap sees the PC's unsuccessful in their bid to rescue Anna McDunugh a second time. They also apparently seem to leave Fengis to fend for himself in the wilds of the Laandsraad.

Recap: We left off the week before with the aforementioned "Question of Morality". The decision ultimately, was to send Patch and Cor'Nal after the kidnapped wife of Briggs McDunugh and daughter of Piter MacBrady and leave the rogue Ademar to stall the merchant Fengis from leaving town as he had planned.

Neither plan was successful.

After giving Piter MacBrady his word that he and Cor'Nal will return his daughter to him Patch suggests they begin. Ademar stays behind and heads to intercept Fengis to attempt to stall him.
Cor'Nal and Patch leave and as Ademar stays behind he is approached on foot by Ryan MacBrady. After some initial confusion Ademar convinces him that he and his friends had nothing to do with Anna's kidnapping and instead the other two went to save her (again). Ryan accepts his explanation and begs Ademar for his horse. Being ever the diplomat and showing the utmost regard for his friends and Anna's well-being, he says no. He tells Ryan that maybe Fengis can help, after all not all of his livestock died from the earlier "plague". He takes Ryan to see Fengis who is packing a small wagon for his journey through the Laandsraad. He allows Ryan to take a horse from the rear of the warehouse. He also tells Ademar he will be ready in about fifteen minutes. Ademar says he'll be there on time...

Giving chase through the trails north of Snoam-Schlabach tracking them by Cor'Nal's survivalist skills and the nose of his wolf companion, they were eventually led east, once again into the Pinefore. The trail was fairly easy to track due to the recent snowfall and droplets of blood left behind by one of the kidnappers wounded during the battle with Piter and his guards. The wolf led the group to a clearing, possibly the largest you've seen in the Pinefore and a dead end. The kidnappers have been cornered here by Briggs and his brother Willis, two allies from the MacBrady constabulary. The men have formed a circle, everyone on horseback facing each other with Willis and Briggs at the southern-most end of the circle. Apparently, though outnumbered the McDunugh brothers have the upper hand because the kidnappers have no means of escape. Five of the kidnappers have crossbows drawn however so there seems to be a standoff. The sixth kidnapper holds Anna, bound at the hands and feet, blindfolded and apparently unconscious

When the PC's arrive the kidnappers become visibly uncomfortable as they clearly did not expect any more followers. Briggs attempts to assay their concerns and tells them not to fear and assures them no sudden moves will be made. He apparently has taken the stance of negotiating with the kidnappers for the life of his wife, or so it would seem. Patch orders them to release Anna or he will kill them all as he jumps off his horse. His threats do not seem to help as the kidnappers do not stand down nor do they release Anna, despite the fact that the odds seem to be swinging in the good guy's favor.

Briggs manages to calm the aggressors and tells Patch to be silent. After a short negotiation, Patch and Cor'Nal, neither on horseback by this time, are beckoned forward into the circle by Briggs. Reluctantly they agree as Briggs and Willis spread apart from one another to make room for them. When they settle after joining the circle Briggs utters a single word in orcish: Fire!

The crossbow armed kidnappers loose their bolts at Patch and Cor'Nal. Patch takes several hits but avoids further damage by saving against the poison imbued in the missiles. Cor'Nal leaves his wolf behind to assist Patch and scrambles away to cast spells from the cover of the thick pines. Once there he casts entangle, trapping four of the seven assailants in roots ripping up from the ground.

Their treachery now apparent Patch engages in combat with both McDunughs. The wolf shields him from Willis but he is met face to face with Briggs. Briggs is the more experienced warrior but Patch bests him in short order, though taking quite a bit of damage himself. Cor'Nal casts Mass Vigor to slowly heal the group during battle. The wolf is taken down by Willis who leaves his horse and advances toward Patch.

During the melee all but one of those entangled are able to free themselves, along with the now enraged Willis (just witnessing the death of his older brother) they advance on Patch. One of them has spotted Cor'Nal and approaches him, firing his poisoned-tipped crossbow bolts.

Unfazed, Cor'Nal turns himself into a bear and nearly rips the head off of his attacker. In so doing the attackers mask falls from his face, revealing the orc beneath.

This is bad. Now the PC's realize that not only are they fighting enemies within Snoam-Schlabach (Briggs and Willis), and Schudlichton. They are fighting outsiders from the nearby orc tribe as well. Yay!

Shortly after the fall of Briggs the kidnapper who held Anna at knifepoint ends her life. Stabbing her in the throat with his dagger and letting her lifeless body slump to the snowy trail from horseback. He leaves his horse when he realizes he cannot flee northward on horseback as the forest is too thick, and decides to take his chances on foot. He is successful in making a clean getaway.

After taking more crossbow bolts and a near deathblow from the blood raged Willis, Patch is bloodied and near-death. What saves him is Willis, himself near-death as well retreats long enough to imbibe a healing potion. Patch sees an opportunity and does the same. When both combatants are fit to fight, the sound of horse hooves can be heard. Fearing the worst, the PC's prepare for the inevitable infusion of enemy reinforcements.

Instead, they are delighted to see the hated MacBrady brother Ryan ride up on horseback. He is alone, but becomes enraged as he sees his sister laid dead dozens of feet in front of him. He jumps from horseback and immediately cuts down Willis. Moving past Patch he cuts a swath through the crossbow-bearing enemies on the west side of the clearing as Patch and Cor'Nal finish off those left in the center. Once that is done Cor'Nal follows Ryan and assists (still in bear form) in killing the few that are left.

Upon finishing off the last orc Ryan turns on Cor'Nal and swings his Greatsword, a critical hit doing its best to try and finish him. Fighting the temptation to fight back, Cor'Nal instead decides to return to his true form before Ryan can take another swing. Although he fears the "witchery" involved in such a display Ryan honorably lowers his sword and acknowledges the outsiders as heroes who attempted to save his sister. Cor'Nal accepts the apology and then heals his wolf enough to bring him from unconsciousness. After cursing the dead McDunugh brothers for their treachery and his father for the arranged marriage between his sister and Briggs he apologizes to Cor'Nal and Patch for his earlier treatment of them and admits that he was wrong. Somberly, he wraps his sister in a blanket he retrieved from a saddlebag and lays her over a spare horse. Patch does the same with the bodies of Briggs and Willis.

Searching the bodies reveals that all the masked assailants that were killed (only the one who killed Anna escaped) were orc. Cor'Nal thinks proof of this should be brought to Piter and so he straps a body over a spare horse himself. They agree to ride in together to present Piter with the terrible news.

During this Ademar stalls Fengis by showing up 30 minutes late. Annoyed but unfettered Fengis insists they hurry off but inquires to the whereabouts of the other two companions. Ademar says they'll meet them on the trail to Schudlichton. This is sufficient enough for Fengis and together in the driver's seat of the two-horse wagon they head north.

Ademar begins to question Fengis aggressively about his desire to leave Snoam-Schlabach so hastily. Fengis assures Ademar that it is only good business to leave a burning building once it catches fire, as staying inside isn't profitable for anyone. Ademar is unswayed by the logical answer and insists Fengis is hiding something. He draws his dagger and puts it to Fengis throat. Growing annoyed and impatient with his vague implications, and now obvious aggression, Fengis orders Ademar to come out with it. Ademar asks questions about the recent bad luck in Snoam-Schlabach (dead livestock, wine turning to vinegar and so forth) and Fengis insists he has no knowledge of what happened and had nothing to do with it. A short silence ensues and Fengis orders Ademar to put the dagger away as he has already done irreparable harm to their business relationship and he would hate for things to become "personal". Ademar complies and then asks what the fee for escort will be. Fengis replies by saying "100 gold pieces". Ademar says that 100 gold each sounds fair, but Fengis corrects him and tells him the fee is 100 gold to be split amongst them. Ademar accuses Fengis of taking advantage of the people of Snoam-Schlabach by asking exorbitant prices for everyday items. Fengis tells him that he gives these people what they need as well as what they want, yes, perhaps at a fair mark-up but still less than what he could get in larger economies. Ademar is unimpressed by Fengis "generosity". Fengis then compares Ademar, Patch and Cor'Nal to himself, saying that they offer the people a service they can't get elsewhere at a price. Fengis offers goods, they offer mercenary services and take the job of the highest bidder. The irony is lost on Ademar as he attempts to negotiate a larger sum. Using his apparent leverage he says "200 gold pieces to split or you travel the Laandsraad alone". Fengis is not impressed. He looks away from Ademar who guesses his answer to be "no". He jumps from the wagon, expecting Fengis to stop it. He does not and instead continues northward to the Laandsraad. Ademar heads back to Snoam-Schlabach on foot. (Which is good 'cause he loves snow.)

Heading south Ademar meets with his bloodied companions who have Ryan MacBrady, several horses and four dead bodies in tow. He is briefed on the tragedy of Anna. He tells his friends he was unable to get anything from Fengis during his interrogation. Seems everyone has had a lousy day.

Upon return to town they march directly to Piter who is devastated but maintains his composure. He asks Ryan to help him prepare for Anna's funeral pyre. Cor'Nal and Patch head to Frost Bit Inn to see Loomis and to get some much-needed rest.

Ademar however, is unhurt and decides to investigate further. Using his rogue skills he picks the lock to Fengis' office and makes his way to his desk. Once there he opens the lock on the right drawer and rummages through some worthless looking shipping and order documents, among them he finds a sack full of common gems, he pockets them for himself. He attempts to unlock the right drawer and is poisoned by the needle trap he springs. It seems worth it however as the poison is not lethal but weakens him slightly. After the lock is picked he finds two wooden scroll cases and a small wooden box. He opens the scroll cases to find one with an enormous amount of writing he cannot understand. He assumes it to be magical in nature and so puts it back in the case for inspection by Cor'Nal. He opens the second case, finds the scroll inside to be blank, however hidden inside is a small, greasy piece of parchment with characters written in charcoal in a language Ademar does not recognize. Again, he puts it away and thinks it best to consult Cor'Nal on the subject.

He leaves the office, careful to replace the locks he picked and leaves the area, however not before a quick peek around Fengis' warehouse which bears no fruit. He bursts through Cor'Nal's door, thrusts the evidence he has procured from "uh, the wagon" he states when questioned about where the items came from and bids him look at them. The first set of scrolls does indeed turn out to be magical in nature. Most of them being healing spells. The box holds a magical ring of unknown nature and the letter in the second case turns out to be written in orcish. A language Cor'Nal has some familiarity in. It reads:

Sell the feed like you would normal.
Take the money we give and leave town.
We do this as favor because you find us many things.


The undersigned is a name you've not yet heard, and this information, although it is not addressed to Fengis, seems to implicate him as Ademar suspected. It would also seem that he may have been a victim of circumstance. Doesn't seem to matter as Patch insists, "Let’s go get the bastard!" and apparently the hunt will be on. Or will it? Seems the idea to head south to the tomb was a popular one...

Will you find Fengis alive? If so what will you do with him?
Will you find him dead, his body torn apart by terrors unknown, his wagon ransacked by those same terrors?
Will you yourselves survive your journey to the Laandsraad and within if you so choose to venture there?
Will you forget all about Fengis and venture South to the Olde Snoam Mine to enter the MacBrady Family tomb?
Will you forget about this gods forsaken region and leave altogether?

We'll know next week, barring any emergencies. (We're looking at you, Ademar.)