Friday, February 26, 2010

February 6 & 21 Game Notes

NOTE: No sessions were played between February 7 - 20.

Gameplay begins in Luthia, with Brix deciding to conduct some independent research on the Central and End of Days prophecies, and Floyd, Guy, and Virgil returning to Dreia to seek out Benedict for his opinion and insight. Upon arriving in Dreia, the trio pay a visit to Mason, whom they find to be acting slightly out of line with what the party knows of his character. At that point, Guy notices that Mason has grey eyes, which he remembers from Bart's military intelligence to be a sign of a doppleganger. Alarmed at this revelation, the party plays it cool and parts company with Mason.

The boys immediately conduct a twofold investigation to figure out how Mason had been replaced with a doppleganger, and where they could find Benedict. As part of their investigation, they strike up a conversation with a member of the city watch, and in the process discover that Mitchell has become the de facto sherrif of Dreia - head of the watch. Knowing that Mitchell, ever the opportunist, has worked with the Goblin army, this gives the boys the how and the who behind what happened to Mason. Further investigation leads them to a city dump, where they find some of Mason's remains.

Unfortunately, their investigation alerts Mitchell that the Order of the Abbey have returned to the city, and Mitchell escapes, creating chaos and confusion among the watch-gaurd, so much so that they barely notice when the Fifty Gnomes' house catches fire. Floyd, Guy, and a few good neighbors help put out the fire, only to discover that the culprits are the Fist of Set, they themselves creating a diversion that will allow them to reach City Hall unimpeded. The fire out, the boys rush to the central promenade to discover they are too late, and the doppleganger Mason has been assasinated. While this has the unintended effect of removing doppleganger Mason from power without implicating the party in the murder of Mason, they are too late to reach the Fist of Set; to make matters worse, the party's efforts to find Benedict are for naught, and the suspicion is that the Fist of Set may have gotten to Benedict before the party could.

At this momentary peak of frustration, the boys are recalled to Luthia, where Braddock re-assigns them to command a select section of soldiers whose job it will be to hold the Pass until such time as the bulk of the force can fall back to the Illrean capital. Though dismayed to know that the Pass will be yielded, the party nevertheless accepts the responsibility in order to save as many good soldiers as possible. The trio travel to the Pass, where they learn that the King of Nemia is bringing a group of soldiers in to back them up. Guy and Virgil send Halverson back to the city with eighty percent of the force and commence working with the remaining soldiers on a battle strategy.

After a time, Halverson returns, stating that he feels it is important to stand with his soldiers, many of whom he expects to fall today. Virgil takes the archers up to a high position, Guy reinforces the (very makeshift) barricade, and Floyd wanders among the remaining troops, boosting morale and providing inspiration. When the goblin army arrives, it is indeed immense, and they are led by a troll with a nasty looking sword and his own personal bloodwatch guard (that special strike force the party was brought in to fight on the Tutian front a few sessions ago). The troll and the party exchange threats, then retreat to their position for battle. The party fires the first shot, in essence, by having Floyd Dimension Door to the rear of the goblin force and release the green "light signal" that the party obtained the last time they fought a bloodwatch guard, which indicates to the army to begin concentrating their fire into that area. The goblin army erupts into chaos, and Floyd Dimension Doors back to his position, whereupon Virgil orders his men to begin firing their arrows.

NOTE: This is the end of the Feb. 6 session, and the beginning of the Feb. 21 session.

At this point, through a wild magic quirk, Virgil finds himself suddenly replaced by Brixmore, who is equally surprised to discover himself teleported to the field. Brix, however, being cool like that, takes the whole thing in stride, and takes over command of the archers, wreaking his own special brand of holy havoc on the goblin army. Guy commands the group on the ground, which holds the barricade for as long as possible, then summons everything they've got to fight the goblin force. The good guys hold out for an impressive amount of time, and take out a large number of goblins, but eventually, their force is whittled down by approximately half. The archers run out of arrows, and Brix shifts his focus to healing soldiers and getting them back into action. The troll commander calls out to the party to surrender, but they refuse. At that point, the troll decides to face the boys personally (well, personally along with the bloodwatch guard).

Both armies fall back to a neutral position as Brix, Guy, and Floyd march out to meet the troll and his special force. Knowing the Nemain King's forces are still an hour away, Floyd does his best to delay the troll via parlay, writing out and detailing all the conditions of the fight, and singing "The Battle of the Cracked Flagon (Alice's Restaurant Version) for about 25 minutes, but eventually, the troll runs out of patience and the fight is underway. Brix puts up a Blade Barrier that separates the most of the bloodwatch guard from the troll, and the remaining guard attempt to grapple Guy. Floyd stabs the troll, and to his surprise, does quite a bit of damage, which the troll rewards him for by pummeling the dog shit out of him.

Eventually, Floyd manages to free Guy from the grapple, and Guy works his magic, felling the troll. Brix caps the defeat of the troll with a Flamestrike in order to insure the troll does not regenerate; however, once the bloodwatch guard realizes their commander is defeated, they go into kamikaze mode and take out the remaining soldiers in the good guys' army. Enraged, Guy draws the apocalypse sword, killing the bloodwatch gaurd and a good portion of the goblin force, but stops short of major destruction.

Floyd, Guy, and Brix fall back to the Illrean capital, where they meet up with the King of Nemia, who sends his troops in that direction as well. The battle at the pass buys the army enough time to set themselves up in good position to defend against a seige in the city, and soon enough, the goblin army arrives, reinforced, and begins laying seige to Illrea. Within the city, the boys take advantage of an opportunity to re-explore the Illrean Ranger safe house in the city. Upstairs, they find the Wand of Fireball laser cannons, and use them to put major smoking holes into the goblin forces. However, they only have a couple of charges apiece, which only serves to slow the goblins down. Left to their own devices again, the boys explore the transporting closets. They work out that the tiles in the closets allow the travelers to choose their destinations, and they begin working out where each destination takes them - one of them being to Haven. On the 2nd destination, they find their molecules being pulled apart, but manage to put the third tile on before it's too late. On the fourth destination, they find themselves in the ruins of the Ranger safe house in Larst, which, unfortunately, has no return tiles, leaving them stranded.

As Brix's Word of Recall is still set to the Tutian front, the party decides to return to Luthia from here on foot. First, however, they stop in and see Pskenart and Axe to check in on their progress. Pskenart is working hard at rebuilding Larst, but is frustrated because Terick has recruited every able-bodied man and woman in the area. The party promises to talk to Terick about supplying Pskenart with some more people.

The trio heads north through the former Gortia with the intent of running into Terick's army, which they do. Terick, as it turns out, has been doing a stellar job of building an army with what is available to him. Although they are short on supplies and true soldiers, Terick has made up for it with organization and an aggressive mindset. The boys themselves are almost recruited into the force, before finding their way to Terick, who calls off his recruiting dogs. The boys talk with Terick, who agrees to send 100 people back to Larst to help Pskenart. In the meantime, the army has swelled to almost 400,000 people, and Terick feels confident that he can get half a million if given another month and the opportunity to sweep through Luthia and southern Silar. The boys tell him they will try to give him that month, at which point it is expected that the army will join them at the front.

Brix, Guy, and Floyd continue north. Along the way, they encounter multiple goblin raiding parties of 60 or so apiece, and although they make short work of them, they are surprised to run into no less than three of them in a week. So as not to waste the resources, the party contacts Terick so that he can send parties to pick up the usable goblin horses, armor, and weaponry that the raiding parties no longer need (what with being dead and all). Brix attempts a Speak with Dead to discern some of the goblin raiding parties' motivation, but finds that they no little about the war other than their own role in dominating the western continent.

The boys reach southern Luthia, and have a close encounter with Visgoth's ex-wife, the grandmother of the elf twins who complete the Year of the Ram kids. She tells Guy to be careful with how she uses the sword, that every death it causes gives power to dark forces - knowledge that considerably changes Guy's opinion of the sword's usage. She also thanks the boys for all that they have been doing to advance her cause, though the party is unaware of exactly how they have done that. As she parts company from them, Floyd manages to forget that he is not supposed to mention the twins in her presence, as he tells her that they are anxious for the infants to grow up. Grandmother pauses, then lets it pass for the time being as she walks away.

The party heads up to the War Council, where they are disappointed to discover that the fallback from the first front will happen sooner than they thought. Guy and Brix do their best to convince the council to hold out another month for Terick's sake, and consider the implications of a fallback into the Western Luthian forest and the Twilight Lands.

End of Session

Thursday, February 25, 2010


I started playing the 2nd Edition of D&D in 7th grade, and continued through my sophomore year in high school, at which point too many people lost interest in the effort it took to get together for us to continue playing regularly. In the Spring of 2001, Jake introduced me to 3rd Edition, and graciously added me as a player in his veteran game, whereupon I had the time of my life, and a dormant passion was renewed.

Over the last nine years, I’ve played in nine games and run six of my own, and while I’m fond of many of the characters I’ve played, the most communal experience our group has as players is shared fondness / disdain for particular NPC’s that have crossed our path on one or more occasions. The following is a list of the top ten NPC’s we’ve encountered over the last decade, and why I feel they are / were so special (HINT: the secret to a great NPC is the way you react to them and how it inspires you to play as a character).

10. El-Hamanid, Created by: Dave, Game(s) in which NPC appeared: DuPontaine Swashbucklers

The bait and switch is a classic NPC tactic – create an NPC ally / acquaintance who the players come to trust, only to have them turn out to be the “big bad guy” they fight in the end. Of all the bait and switch NPCs I’ve encountered as a player, El-Hamanid was definitely the most unexpected. The reason for this was probably Dave’s ability to immerse us in a world of intrigue where we suspected everyone else. To us, El-Hamanid was simply Trader Joe, a completely different NPC staple – the universal shopkeep. For the first time in my playing history, though, the shopkeep did it.

9. Herb, Created by: Chris, Game(s) in which NPC appeared: The Fantabulous Mage-a-Tron

Herb was your classic wise man – lives in a small town, knows every secret in the game, is folksy and charming. But Chris’ specialty is folksy and charming, which gave Herb a twinkle Burl Ives couldn’t manage. In a world of high fantasy and magic, Chris’ hardy, New England farmer take on Herb was so convincing that I’ve often found myself wishing he were real so I could go to him for the answers.

8. Malkawa, Created by: Joey, Game(s) in which NPC appeared: Mouthus’ Journal

Every Star Wars game that takes place in the Old Republic era is bound to have a Jedi mentor in it. Malkawa could have been that mentor, were she not surrounded by a group hell-bent on re-routing the moral compass of the galaxy to their own whims. In the defense of the players, Malkawa was pretty insufferable; she was a Wookiiee, which made it difficult for her to communicate with most of the players, and she had a tendency towards righteous indignation that rubbed many of the players (particularly Chris and Daniel) the wrong way. I have no doubt that many will disagree about her inclusion; however, her influence alone kept the party from descending into a complete moral vacuum – once she was written out of the game, the criminal elements reigned supreme.

7. Jesus (Egg Pilot Edition), Created by: Dave, Game(s) in which NPC appeared: The Rapture

Jesus in an egg jumped every possible shark imaginable in Dave’s D20 future setting, propelling the story towards a speedy and premature conclusion. While this was regrettable, the character in itself was something of a masterstroke, and indelibly a creation of his DM. Dave’s Jesus was painted in the broad strokes of a Washington Post political cartoon – confused, out of sorts, and blindly poking at straws, the savior of mankind didn’t so much orchestrate his deification as he did stumble into it.

6. Soljus, Created by: Joey, Game(s) in which NPC appeared: The Dominici, The Fantabulous Mage-a-Tron, The DOPP

Soljus is a hybrid character, and this is important because his genius lies not in his creation so much as his development. When he first appeared in my Dominici game, Soljus was a common criminal polymorphed into a monkey by an Archmage; he later regained his human form only to become a monkey again later. In Chris’ hands, he took on a new life: Soljus’ curse was more than just a new form – he was granted an unnaturally long life, and lived so long that wisdom at long last found him after years of stubborn refusal. In my opinion, this makes him a truly amazing NPC – one who achieved real growth and change.

5. Doogal, Created by: Jacob, Game(s) in which NPC appeared: The Order of the Abbey

The top 5 is crowded with Jake’s creations, and few can compare to Doogal. Doogal has been the subject of more discussion than any other NPC I can remember. We respect him, but we fear his potential. Some want to kill him, while others see his value as an ally. Doogal has caused us more trouble than any other NPC on this list, and yet of anyone who has enjoyed “bad guy” status with PC’s, there are few characters we’ve wanted to kill less (with the notable exception of Dave, who kind of wants to kill everyone), and yet in spite of that, we’ve killed him twice. We’ve also spent hours of our lives discussing politics, playing concerts with, and just trying to outwit the guy. Plus, Doogal is the Doogie Howser of international commerce warfare. That concept alone has to be unique to the modern role-playing game.

4. Charles Fox, Created by: Jacob, Game(s) in which NPC appeared: Most of them.

Charles Fox is the epitome of the recurring character. He’s appeared in most of Jake’s games, and most of Chris’s games as well. He’s the frustrating, cryptic, elusive mysterious man in the forest, yet he’s witty, urbane, and quite possibly smarter than everyone else in this joint. In his purest form, Fox is the least fractured element of Jake’s personality when he’s running a game – a moment for him to step in and say, “guys, I know the players determine the direction of the game, but you really need a tour guide right now.” The funny thing is, a character like that (who inevitably leads you around by the nose to where the DM wants you to be) is typically boring, predictable, and makes the game less fun. Charles Fox not only contradicts those traits, he defies your expectations at every turn. That’s special.

3. Father Pious, Created by: Chris, Games in which NPC appeared: The DOPP

The DOPP were men of science. Father Pious was a man of faith. These two forces will butt heads, and the results will not be pretty – it’s that simple. That story has been told over and over, and the dichotomy works when you’re deeply involved in the story, but to an outside observer, it’s rote. Not Father Pious. Perhaps it was his real world inspiration (a priest we knew from our Catholic college days) that brought Father Pious so vividly to life, but I don’t think that really gets to the heart of the matter, because the player who got the most of out of Pious was the one of us who had never met the real guy. Once again, it was a vivid, imaginative, and detailed performance on the part of the DM that gave Father Pious that spark, and made him the enemy you most love to hate.

2. Nordogast, Created by: Joey, Game(s) in which NPC appeared: Con-Agra, Superheroes, Mouthus’ Journal, Serenity (infant cameo)

Nordogast was a true asshole, and you loved him for it. The key to Nordogast is that he was basically a PC – albeit a powerful PC with seemingly unlimited resources. It’s just that Nordogast was playing a different game than the one the players were involved in, and when he crossed paths with you, you were typically after the same MacGuffin. If you weren’t on opposing sides, however, Nordogast was the kind of guy you might like to sit down and have a drink with. In every game in which he has appeared, Nordogast has survived his first encounter with the PC’s (and always from the approach that he is a bad guy) by talking his way into their good graces. You know things will end badly. You know he is planning to screw you. You know you should just kill him now. But you can’t help yourself. It’s Nordogast.

1. Malus (Captain Evil), Created by: Jacob, Game(s) in which NPC appeared: Ravensfeast Trio, The Valley of the Fallen Stars, The Order of the Abbey

The first time PCs met Captain Evil, he was popping the head off of a 5th level cleric and marching towards a fight with a Vecna high-priest that promised to be so bad, the players opted to destroy the entire city in lieu of witnessing it. It would be easy to dismiss Captain Evil as a pile of cool stuff on a high-level warrior, but that would serve to underestimate the guy’s effect – the dude made our knees tremble no matter what level we were, and it was every inch attitude. A man who ate war, death, and destruction for breakfast, Captain Evil has seen and endured more mind-bending grief and torture than you or I could ever imagine. Even the admittedly ridiculous nickname we gave him way back at the beginning cannot mitigate the terror that comes with facing off with this guy. In his time, he has been associated with or appeared alongside some major baddies – Linus, the Horned King, Voltare, Visgoth, Asgaroth (Jake’s no slouch when it comes to scary-ass villains) – but if you were to ask us who’s the one guy we’re scared to fight? Look no further.

Honorable Mention: Celeron, Wyfierd (Galathian), Jeanette Tiso, Garam, Brown Tornado, Goldschmiddt, Won-Huong Lo, The Horned King