Sunday, April 23, 2017

A trip to the mountains

This year is the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Canadian confederation. To celebrate, all of Canada's national parks are open for free. Here in Calgary, we are fortunate to live less than an hour's drive from the crown jewel of the Canadian national park system, Banff. I usually take the family to the park a couple of times a year, but it is normally pretty expensive for a day trip, especially since the nearby provincial park, Kananaskis, is free all the time. So, this year, we are getting an early start to take advantage of the free access.

Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep near Exshaw

Elk (aka Wapiti) wandering through the Tunnel Mtn. campground

Mount Rundle from Tunnel Mtn.

The Cave at Cave and Basin National Historic Site


Friday, April 14, 2017

Iron Gods - Valley of the Brain Collectors 3

Continuing with our Iron Gods campaign, as always, expect spoilers.

Upon further consideration, the company concluded that the robojack was probably not worth the effort of retrieval and decided to continue on directly to the Dominion hive. On the way, they were once again met by the tiefling bounty hunter, Hyrsek Caio. Using all his "well-learned politesse", he questioned the party on their findings within the Fungal Cave, and whether they had found any evidence of the rogue Technic League mage Therace. The party denied finding anything beyond a few minor baubles. Being a fairly perceptive individual, Caio was certain they were withholding the truth from him. Nonetheless, they were clearly more than he could handle. The reckoning would have to wait and Caio helplessly watched as the party went on its way.

As the company continued to the hive, they encountered an enormous, foul-smelling mass of scaly flesh. They were able to determine that it was, in fact, the decomposing remains of the organic dropship used by the Dominion to land on Golarion. Braving the stench, the party entered the ship from a rotted hole in the collapsing roof. They quickly encountered a guardian of the dying vessel, a lunarma sorcerer. The weird, hovering, tentacled creature engaged the party with magic and a mindrender. It fought with ferocity, but was ultimately defeated. Moving on, the party made its way to the front of the ship where, they assumed, the control centre would found. Access to the deck was barred by three neh-thalggus, the dreaded brain collectors.

They battled hard, with claw and spell, but the potent strength-sapping venom of their bite attacks proved the most debilitating attack. Fortunately, no brains were collected on this day.

Finally, the party arrived on the bridge of the ship. The ceiling was quite high. Suspended from it was an immense steel and glass cauldron containing a huge green ooze that sloshed about within its container.

The ooze began to communicate with party telepathically. It called itself The-Stars-Whisper and claimed to be the shipmind of the dropship. Though its demeanor was initially hostile, it became friendlier upon realizing the party sought a confrontation with the Dominion. Like the ship itself, the shipmind was dying and it grew to hate the Dominion, and especially the neh-thalggus, blaming them for its inevitable demise. It offered the party a cache of useful items it had stored which could aid in the fight against the Dominion. The shipmind revealed a number of magical and technological items, including an ingenuity facet, a special device similar to the inhibitor facet they had used against Hellion back in Scrapwall. However, unlike that device, the ingenuity facet is intended to strengthen, rather than weaken an artificial intelligence. The cache also included a dozen scent glands which could be used to obscure the party from the internal sensors within the hive.

As the group prepared to collect the treasure and depart, the demeanor of the shipmind suddenly shifted again. It decided that it needed to test the party, reasoning that if they could not defeat it, they would be no match for the Dominion. It attacked immediately, using its potent plasma bolt and thought disruption attacks. The battle was hard-fought and more than one party felt his mind nearly shattered by the psychic attacks. Still, the company prevailed and the shipmind died, content that its vengeance would be delivered. The Dominion awaits.


Saturday, February 25, 2017

Iron Gods - Valley of the Brain Collectors 2

We continue with our Iron Gods campaign - spoilers ahead.

As the party made their way to the Fungal Cave, they came across a campsite across the river. A lone individual occupied the site. They approached cautiously and, although the individual clearly noticed their approach, he did not assume a hostile stance. He introduced himself as Hyrsek Caio and as the company got closer, they could see he was a tiefling. Though reticent at first, Caio eventually revealed that he was a bounty hunter in the employ of the Technic League (although not a member of the organization). He was pursuing a renegade Technic League wizard by the name of Therace. When the party indicated they were heading to the Fungal Cave, Caio offered to accompany them. They politely declined, but told him they would report back to him if they found any evidence of Therace and with that, they headed on their way.

The Fungal Cave was choked with green mould. Two shambling mounds guarded the entrance.After dispatching the sentries, the party entered the swampy cavern. Green slime and humanoid bones adorned the walls. Deeper they went until they were set upon by a group of Mi-Go, the dreaded alien fungus creatures from the void. The Mi-Go proved challenging, but were eventually destroyed. More Mi-Go and the gug allies were encountered. The company came upon a surgical theatre where Mi-Go performed their grisly experiments and a shrine to Shub-Niggurath tended to by three chaos beast clerics of the Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young.

Eventually, they came upon Lrrhech, a Mi-Go cleric of Shub-Niggurath and its bodyguards. The Mi-Go fought hard, but were ultimately defeated. The party was just too strong. Among its possessions, they found the disembodied brain of the renegade wizard, Therace, encased in a metal canister. Although his grip on sanity was tenuous, he was able to tell them of the events that led to his capture and eventual vivisection. Of particular importance to the party, he mentioned that he had sent part of his expedition to another cave to explore. He said they had a robojack with them, which he intended to use should he encounter the annihilator robots of which he had heard reports. Knowing that at least one such robot still remained somewhere in the valley, the party decided to seek out this device. Until next time...


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Iron Gods - Valley of the Brain Collectors 1

Once again, we continue with our Iron Gods campaign...spoilers ahead.

After tying up some loose ends in Iadenveigh and Torch, and making a quick trip to Starfall to surreptitiously unload some treasure (and Grendal), the party, which now included a priestess of Brigh called Hala, made its way to the Scar of the Spider. At the entrance to the valley, they found the smoking ruin of a massive robot. A large crater indicated that the robot had been crippled by a major explosion, possibly caused by a planted mine. As the party examined the robot, they noticed a large net slung under it. Within contained several human bodies, most likely local barbarians. They had been killed by the explosion, but sometime later, the tops of their skulls had been surgically removed and their brains extracted. As the party examined the scene, the robot exploded, of course.

After patching themselves up, the party began following the tracks of a second large robot which had apparently also been damaged by the blast, but survived and made its way back down into the valley. On the way, they came upon a large cave full of reddish fungus. The fungus turned out to be radioactive, but flammable, The party was able to burn it away, destroy several giant spiders that occupied the cave and recover a sizeable treasure trove. Continuing on their way, they encountered a ragged man with many scars and some high-tech prosthetics. The man, who called himself Paetyr, was clearly mentally disturbed, but not hostile. Hala was able to cure the man of his insanity and he proved to be a valuable source of information. He turned out to be a druid who had been tortured by a group he called the Butchers who inhabit the valley. He was able to provide information on other denizens of the Scar of the Spider, notably a four-armed female being who used high technology. He said she was the one who destroyed the giant robot. The company was interested in making contact with this person. Paetyr said she could be found in a place he called the Machine Caves and told them how to get there.

The Machine Caves turned out to be natural caves, but parts of the interior were clad in metal with glaucite doors and robotic guards. There was no immediate sign of the four-armed creature, but the party members found themselves in the throne room/laboratory of a particularly bombastic robot called Binox. After a predictably unsuccessful effort at diplomacy, a surprisingly difficult battle ensued. Binox proved quite formidable, with integrated laser rifles, a force field and the unexpected ability to rapidly climb out of pit spells (a party mainstay). Nonetheless, the would-be robot king was defeated. They explored a little more and realized the room they were in was a fully functional military and production lab powered by a geothermal reactor, a find worth a king's ransom. As the party healed up, the four-armed female appeared. She spoke in Androffan and said her name was Isuma. She said she was of a race called the Kasathans and that she was from a distant world. She said she was brought to this world on the ship that crashed in Numeria thousands of years ago. She and several fellow Kasathans had been preserved in stasis pods until recently. They had run afoul of a group of Dominion agents and only she had been able to escape. Since then, she has been fighting a guerrilla war against the Dominion. When the party informed her that they were looking to cause some trouble for the Dominion as well, she asked to join them. She also told them of another group of aliens who lived in a place she called the Fungal Cave. She said they were also worshippers of the elder gods of the Dark Tapestry, just like the Dominion, but that the two groups were mutually hostile. She figured this other group might be a bit easier to take on and that they may have some useful technology or information to use against the Dominion. It was agreed to check out the Fungal Cave first and off the went with Isuma tagging along.


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Iron Gods - The Choking Tower 4

We continue with our Iron Gods campaign - spoilers ahead.

The company returned the next day after a night of rest at the lair of the star monarch. By once again using the secret stairwell, they bypass a couple of floors, arriving eventually at the private bed chamber of Furkas Xoud. Though in his current state, he had little need for sleep, his spellbooks were in the room and their loss would be devastating to him. He arrived immediately to destroy the intruders for good. Starting off once again with a fireball, followed by a spectral miasma, Xoud did some damage, but the party was fresh and Xoud had no allies. Grendal was gravely weakened by the effects of an irradiate spell, but the party prevailed nonetheless. Furkas Xoud was vanquished a second time and this time, there would be no return.

With Xoud defeated, the remaining hazards and minions, including Xoud's two remaining robotic apprentices and a large, animated crane, proved only minor inconveniences. The most dangerous threat turned out to be a haunt in one of Xoud's private study rooms. Among the depraved technomancer's more diabolical research interests was suffocation. He had a vacuum chamber in which he would place test subjects to study their deaths as they gasped for breath. The cruelty of their deaths created a haunt which sought to destroy the living by drawing the air from their lungs. This malevolent entity attacked Smangtooth and the party had little success in figuring out how to destroy it. They eventually left the area and the haunt did not follow as it was attached to that one room.They would later realize that destroying the vacuum pump would lay the haunt to rest.

With his minions slain and his treasures plundered, the ghost of Furkas Xoud was laid to rest and the party had the Choking Tower to call their own. It was a find of extraordinary value for it had both a medical lab and a military lab, as well as the smoke furnace to provide power. The party was further able to remove enough equipment from the buried module at Iadenveigh to also set up a production lab. Let us hope the Technic League does not learn of it.


Monday, November 14, 2016

Review: Numenéra Character Options 2

The newest expansion for the Numenéra game from Monte Cook Games is the Numenéra Character Options 2. Those familiar with the game or other games that use the Cypher System will know that character concepts are presented using the formula "I am a adjective noun that verbs." The "noun" in this case is the character type. In Numenéra, the are three character types, the glaive (fighter), the nano (mage) and the jack (rogue). The "adjective" is the character descriptor, a single word that best describes the characters strongest attribute, such as tough or charming. The "verb" is the character focus, a word or phrase that describes what the character does such as "masters weaponry" or "controls beasts". For example, a typical archer would be described as "a graceful glaive that carries a quiver". Each of the three components of the character concept formula adds a set of characteristics and abilities to whole character build. So one could create "a clever nano who talks to machines" or "a clever jack who talks to machines", two smart characters with an affinity for technology, but with different abilities.

Obviously, this is the second expansion to add new character design options. The first included a bunch of new descriptors and foci, as well as options for customizing the three character types. This book takes it a step further by introducing two entirely new character types, the glint and the seeker. The glint can best be described as the party "face". This character type is the master of social situations, skilled in the arts of diplomacy and deception. The seeker is an explorer, adept in survival and extremely resilient, almost as good in combat as the glaive, but with skills to boot. NCO2 also introduces a bunch of new character races with a strong emphasis on aquatic and amphibian species, as well as regional descriptors for humans such as the nature-loving Gaians, bloodthirsty Vralkans or seafaring Rayskelans. All in all, some pretty useful stuff, well presented and much of it easily adaptable to other Cypher system campaigns. Highly recommended.


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Iron Gods - The Choking Tower 3

We continue with our Iron Gods campaign - as always, expect spoilers.

Having discovered a secret stairway, the party decided to head down instead of continuing up the tower. They uncovered a hidden dungeon beneath the tower. The first room they entered had a small desk with a journal written by Furkas Xoud describing various creatures he had summoned and studied. The last entry described a leukodaemon. Sure enough, in the next room was a large glowing summoning circle with a very angry leukodaemon trapped inside. The fiend was clearly contained so the party felt confident they could approach. However, when they entered, a cackling, ghostly figure entered through the wall. It cast a spell and the circle stopped glowing. The ghostly figure then fled and the leukodaemon attacked the party with a hideous breath weapon made up of biting flies.

The battle was difficult, but the party vanquished the leukodaemon. They went on to battle some belkers in a strange wind tunnel built by Xoud to study air creatures, then found a shrine to Zyphus, the god of accidental death. Eventually, they came to Xoud's holding cells. They found a lone occupant, a worm that walks named Nargin Haruvex. Nargin was imprisoned by Xoud as a study subject and was anxious to be freed. He agreed to aid the party against Xoud in exchange for his freedom.

Eventually, they arrived at Xoud's most important research lab. They found his smoke furnace, a power generator combining magic and technology and a room called "Lab Zero: Mnemotechnic Recovery". The lab had a very sophisticated locking mechanism, but Nils was able to defeat it. They entered to find the corpse of Casandalee laid out on a table with a strange robot guarding it. The robot, which the party would later determine to be a thought harvester, attacked the party. Just as they were engaged with it, the ghost of Furkas Xoud arrived and caught them all in a spectral miasma. Unable to see and being drained of life energy, the party fought on bravely. Eventually, they destroyed the robot by causing it to fall into a magical pit and forced Xoud to retreat. Searching the lab, they found some useful information, most notably, the location where Casandalee hid her neurocam, a valley to the northeast called the Scar of the Spider. Before pursuing their new lead, the company decided to finish exploring the tower and hopefully find a way to put Furkas Xoud to rest permanently.