Sunday, December 28, 2014

Skylanders: Trap Team turns the wackiness up to 11

Although my kids and I have been playing a lot of Disney Infinity 2.0 lately, we have been Skylander fans for a lot longer and it was inevitable we would get the new Skylander: Trap Team when it was released. Each iteration of the Skylanders franchise brings with it some new gimmick. The original Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure introduced the "toys-to-life" concept whereby collectible figures with embedded RFID chips could interact directly with a video game. A world of floating islands with a force of defenders known as the Skylanders is being menaced by a diminutive, would-be conqueror known as Kaos. Many races including elves, dragons, trolls and robots inhabit the world and many of the Skylander characters are derived from these races. Next came Skylanders: Giants which introduced a new story involving the indefatigable Kaos, a giant robot voiced by George Takei, and a new group of special extra-large figures. The third installment, Skylanders: Swap Force, introduced a new group of figures that had separable upper and lower halves, each of which had its own RFID and which could be interchangeably attached to mix and match capabilities. Once again, the Skylanders battle Kaos, but this time, his mom shows up.

Finally, in the most recent version of the game, we have the "Trapmasters", a special team of Skylanders who have mastered the power of traptanium. a magical crystalline material that has the power to trap villains and turn them to good. Extra crystal traps are available to allow the player to call up trapped villains as needed to either fight or engage in certain side quests that only the villains can do. Obviously, there are a lot more unique villains in this game than in previous Skylanders games in order to utilize this new game mechanic and some are pretty crazy. The elite villains are a gang called the "Doom Raiders" led by the imperious Golden Queen and included among their ranks are a giant disembodied doll head with a Vally Girl accent, a leather-pants-wearing rock star wolfman and a Cajun chef who is an anthropomorphic chili pepper. Of course, Kaos is also back (this guy has more lives than a cat which has been genetically spliced with a cockroach). When you are carrying a trap, the villain can talk to you through the portal. It's generally quiet enough to ignore, but some of the chatter is quite entertaining. Spend a few minutes carrying Broccoli Guy around and you'll never want to bring anyone else.

After spending a fair bit of time playing both Skylanders and Disney Infinity, I have come to some conclusions. First, I like the two-person split screen play of Disney Infinity better than the single screen two-person play of Skylanders. My oldest daughter is a better and more aggressive player than the younger one and she often finds the tether to the other character very frustrating. Hence, they don't play it together very well. However, in Disney Infinity, my younger daughter can interact with the game environment at her own pace while the older one can charge ahead and do as she pleases. On the other hand, the linear adventures of Skylanders seem to be more playable for my kids. The adventures in the DI playsets are often quite challenging even for me and nearly impossible for my kids, while the worldbuilding opportunities of the toybox mode just don't appeal to anyone in my family. After twenty minutes of putting up buildings and laying down racetracks, we are pretty much bored to death. So overall, I give a slight edge to Skylanders as far as playability is concerned.

But damn, those Disney figures are sweet!


Sunday, October 05, 2014

Intermission +

With our Way of the Wicked campaign finished, we took a couple weeks off and debated what to do next. We often play something a little different in the space between long Adventure Paths to try other things out or get a break from the norm.

We've done short evil adventures, tried out Basic Role Playing, did Star Wars and probably others I can't think of right now. For this break we agreed to play some Numenera. Rognar broke out his GMing short and some of us got together to try it out.

Character creation is pretty simple and quick. Once you get a general idea for your character it comes together pretty quickly.When it comes to role playing games, not all option are created equally and its always tough to guess what sort of character is going to be the most useful. The players discussed what they had in mind for a character. We had one fighter type, one Nano (wizard type), and two Jacks.

I was one of the Jacks. I played Dennis Duvalier, a reformed smooth talking thief. So far at least the game hasn't had much combat so a skilled base character has been very handy. The system itself is quite light. you roll a 20 sided dice and tell the GM what the result was and whether you are trained in the task or not. You can put in effort to make the task easier. The GM thinks about how difficult the task is and lets you know whether you succeeded or not. That's it. No adding different buff modifiers, or adding circumstantial bonuses, or rolling a fistful of dice and then multiplying them on a critical hit.

My initial view of the system is that the PCs were pretty wimpy until we actually fought a battle. I quickly realized that we were not super powerful but most other things are pretty wimpy so in actuality the PCs are pretty tough. With that being said we decided not to pick fights with two very bad-ass looking body guards or an ancient monstrous work. Strong we are, suicidal we are not.

So our Numenera campaign should run until the end of the year. This seems to be quite an epic quest we've found ourselves. The first session was lots of fun and I think everyone is looking forward to what comes next. If I can find the motivation I'll do a write up of the session from my characters point of view.

Looking ahead it appears we're going to be playing Wrath of the Righteous next. After playing evil-doers, we switch over to Big-Damn-Heroes. Everything I've read and my test PCs indicate that the Mythic rules for Pathfinder increase the level of Rocket-tag exponentially
. I look forward to inflicting 1000+ points of damage a round.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Unpopular geek opinions

One of my "go to" geek sites is Like most of the Gawker media world, they do spend a lot of time railing against the Patriarchy which can get a little tiresome, but the good outweighs the bad most of the time. One of the things I like is when they pose questions to their readers about their tastes in geek entertainment. The latest asks what unpopular opinions do you have about geek culture. It's an interesting question and one sure to elicit strong opinions, so I put it to our readers. What things do you like in geek entertainment that are unpopular?

I will start:

1. I don't hate Michael Bay. There, I said it. I recognize he is no Stanley Kubrick or even Steven Spielberg, but he's no worse than George Lucas. Nobody in the business, with the possible exception of James Cameron, is as adept at FX as Michael Bay.

2. I never got into Doctor Who. I first watched it in the Tom Baker era and stuck with it for awhile mainly because there wasn't much else to watch. Now, just not interested.

3. I think the Cthulhu Mythos is very cool, but I think Lovecraft's writing is weak and dull. Other writers did a far better job bringing the Mythos to life than HPL ever did.

Note, these are just my opinions, your mileage may vary. Anyone else?


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Way of the Wicked 26 - The End

Its interesting that this campaign  went 26 session which assuming we played every two weeks would be exactly one year.

The original plan was to start this session with a Kracken hunt but the player that was driving this was missing so the PCs decided to put that off until the next session. Kingdom building continued. The cathedral to Asmodeus was completed and a foreign princess arrived looking to marry the king. She had with her a thousand of loyal soldiers and a large dowry.

The king thought about it briefly: a young hot sly virgin princess that wants to have my baby and whose dad is rich? They got married and was shortly after pregnant.

Being a Vampire is pretty awesome but comes with some pretty serious drawbacks. Knowing what was coming, I threw the vampire a tainted bone in the form of an Elixir of Protection of Sunlight. Knowing that the PCs would want to make more I came up with an ingredients list that was meant to signal that they should forget about it move on: a Tooth from a Demilich, a Balor fart, essence of rainbow, and the tears of a Ancient Great Wurm Gold dragon. The PCs thought that the Balor fart was hilarious and it was good for about 20 minutes of solid laughing as different people riffed on it. Even though they had no intention of going after the other ingredients, collecting a Balor fart was just one of those things that will never ever happen in another campaign and so it had to be done.

The wizard began researching Balors trying to learn a name so it could be Gated in. I tossed out the name of the Balor Lord Khorramzadeh and one of the players (who is currently DMing Wrath of the Righteous) went very pale and suggested that they go after a regular non-Barlor Lord.

A less TPKing candidate was found and was gated in. The Balor spent the first round threatening the PCs but they immediately hit it with a spell that made it Helpful and then diplomasized the Balor into fart for them and allowing them to collect it. I thought it was simple, funny and seemed legit so I let them get away with and they talked the Balor into returning through the Gate before their spell wore off. That Balor is going to need some therapy.

Word came form the Frost Giant Queen Ellisif that there was trouble in the far north and to come ASAP. The PCs arrived and were told of a strange shadowy substance that was spreading across the land killing every living thing that touches. They quickly discovered that it ignored the undead and so they set off to find the source.

The shadowstuff was erupting out of a volcano in a remote mountain range. The PCs found a tunnel that led into the heart of the volcano and there faced off against two monsters from the darkness between worlds. The two Shoggoths were dispatched without too many problems (some of the PCs being grappled and engulfed aside) and then much time was spent trying to figure out how to stop the flow of the shadowstuff. The key was several large magic stones. These were moved and the flow began to reverse. The PCs then moved the Stones to a location near Matharyn were they could be studied further.

At this point we were cruising right along with still 2 hours left to play so we decided to start the end game. Everyone leveled up to 20 and the Princess returned. She sent riders across the land to summon the faithful. The PCs called up their armies and used  Gates to transport them to the capital. The Princess led her forces to the Fields of Tamberline where the Makardians had to defeated the Barcans to take the crown 80 years earlier. There a Solar extended the artifact, The Veil of Mitra, to cover an area a mile across protecting it from Divinations and Teleportation.

Thinking they were being cheaky, the PCs challenged Belinda to a 4 vs 4 duel, winner take all. Thinking how many lives would be saved and knowing the strength of her allies she accepted.   Cleric, Vampire Fighter, Bloodrager, and Wizard vs an Elysian Titan, an Ancient Wurm Silver Dragon (Mom), Half Dragon Sorcerer, and a Solar. While they PCs grumbled a bit after the battle started that they should have been sneakier about attacking, doing it this way saved them from having to deal with the Titan's Cohort a Ghaele, and the High Inquisitor. The Princess had no shortage of high powered companions.

The battle stretched on over 4 long hours although in game time it was probably only a couple minutes. Lots of very high level spells were tossed and there were some big hits ( a couple PCs can cross off "Getting hit with a Maul of the Titans" from their bucket list). The Titan was the first to go down despite getting Healed twice. The vampire kept the Princess Belinda pinned and was slowly draining her blood. The Dragon and Solar were on a rampage with the PCs trying to keep away from them. Finally the Bloodrager went down and the Wizard a few seconds later. The cleric moved next to the vampire and used Word of Recall to whisk away the Vampire and the Princess's body.

We decided to end the campaign here because the logistics for continuing would be difficult with the Bloodrager and Wizard in the custody of the forces of Good, and the Princess in the hands of the Vampire and King who have retreated to their sanctuary in the Agathium.

The forces of good hold the field and most of the PCs forces would surrender or withdraw after the defeat.

The forces of the White Unicorn take the capital, arrest the Queen and other members of the PCs court. A few battles are fought but troops loyal to the PCs quickly find themselves isolated and are forced to revert to banditry to stay alive. As the capital is restored to Markadian rule, the heroes of the White Unicorn begin their search for the missing princess. The Titan is True Resurrected and joins the search. The High Inquisitor begins to purge Asmodean influence from the kingdom.

But where are the remaining PCs?

As the King used Word of Recall something felt slightly off but under the circumstances (a colossal dragon coming to eat you) it was ignored. As things cleared the King was immediately aware of a few things that were not as they should be. Firstly, this was not his sanctuary in the Agathium. This was  a second circle that had been drawn outside the walls of the Agathium. Second, the almost continuous storms of the area were not present today and the sun was shining - perhaps that was why Sergent was screaming beside him. Thirdly, they were surrounded a number of beings. There were the Death Knights, the wizard Grigori with a far away look in his eye and lastly a large Skeleton in fancy robes. There was something about its skull that seemed familiar, the Gems that were set in it perhaps? It whispered in voice heard long ago, "Welcome Home" and began to laugh.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The power of the Raccoon

It looks like Disney Infinity 2.0 is set to eclipse Skylanders as the leader in the collectible toy/video game market, thanks largely to Marvel. Pre-orders of DI2 starter packs and figures, due for release later this month, are skyrocketing, with Guardians of the Galaxy merchandise being exceptionally popular. Because of this, Disney is already starting to announce future figures most likely to be available next year. The first of these are Yondu from GotG and Falcon from Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Here we see the first image of the Yondu figure:

I better go pre-order the GotG starter pack this weekend.


Monday, September 08, 2014

September Blahs

So after a flurry of posts in August we are back to the regular pace of updates for September. The kids are back to school and starting after school activities which sucks up energy and free time.  There won't be a Way of the Wicked update today since our game this weekend got postponed due to scheduling conflicts and the coming weekend is already looking iffy. We are coming to the end of the campaign and I'd kinda like to see it over with.

I have the next session planned out but I'm still a bit up in the air about how I'm going to close things out. The Adventure Path has some good suggestions but some elements are dumb. Why would some of the antagonists split off from their group and try to fight the PCs one at a time? The PCs always fight as a team so why would their opponents be dumb and not do the same? I do like the idea of a duel though. maybe I'll slide that in their somewhere.

I have also let the PCs get immensely powerful this campaign. I hate tracking WBL rules (and XP for that matter) so we implemented some training rules that replace a lot of the Big six magic items in the game (weapons, armor, headbands, belts, cloaks, and amulets of NA). Rings of protection are still in. This has made for highly optimized PCs. They pretty much ROFLStomp most of their opponents and I'm ok with that. As long as they assume that combat is not going to be easy and they have to retreat from time to time I know they are still being challenged.

So Good vs Evil, Evil vs Good. Who should win?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

EROEI - the unseen enemy of the bright future

We Albertans are widely-derided within our own country for being insensitive to the environmental consequences of our oilsands development. It is true that we have an out-sized carbon footprint and there are many Albertans that would like to see better environmental stewardship. In fact, despite the ugly pictures of tailings ponds around Fort MacMurray, a lot of Alberta looks like this:

We have invested a lot of money in carbon sequestration, the process of capturing carbon during the burning of fossil fuels and burying it, typically in old oil reservoirs. Of course, the environmental groups disapprove of this approach, preferring the oil to stay in the ground and the energy production replaced by renewables. Well, it turns out the environmentalists may have it all wrong, a future of wind and solar is just not possible. The villain is EROEI, energy-returned-on-energy-invested.

A recent paper by John Morgan, a prominent Australian expert on energy storage technology, lays out the problem. In order for a power plant to be viable, it must return more energy over its operational lifespan than it requires to build it. Dr. Morgan calculated the minimum EROEI of 7:1, once maintenance and operational requirements are included. Anything below that and the project makes no sense. Under current conditions, that is, an energy grid with ample baseload supply from fossil fuel and/or nuclear plants, wind and concentrated solar power (CSP) comfortably surpass that minimum EROEI. Interestingly, photovoltaic solar doesn't even achieve the threshold now, so you might want to reconsider any plans to install solar panels on your roof.

Anyway, a future without fossil fuels would require extensive energy storage capacity for times when the wind isn't blowing and the sun isn't shining, a problem fossil fuels don't have since the energy is already stored in the fuel. There are two main ways of storing energy, batteries and pumped hydroelectric. Batteries are more mobile but are ten times more energy intensive to produce per unit of energy storage. In other words, batteries will have to become an order of magnitude more energy efficient just to achieve the current EROEI of pumped hydroelectric and, of course, batteries require lots of rare metals which have their own scarcity issues to deal with when considering massive scale up. So, the best case scenario assumes pumped hydro, which involves pumping water to a place of higher elevation, then releasing it to run turbines like a normal hydroelectric dam. Even with the assumption of using pumped hydro for energy storage, wind power falls well below the threshold and CSP is just marginally above (and even then, only in ideal conditions for solar power). Nothing short of a miraculous new technology unlike anything we are currently working on can turn the trend line on this. We simply cannot maintain our civilization without fossil fuels or a huge increase in nuclear power generation.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Strange, a first look

The Strange, the latest game from the game design superteam of Monte Cook and Bruce Cordell has been released and it is fantastic. Using the Cypher game system, first introduced in their previous game, Numenera, The Strange is the most recent imagining of the multi-genre role-playing game concept. Although it borrows much of its tone from the Dark Matter campaign setting for Alternity and d20 Modern, which Monte Cook developed in collaboration with Wolfgang Baur, The Strange really seems influenced by a much older game, TORG by West End Games.

The title of the game refers to an intergalactic transportation system originally created by a race of hyper-advanced aliens billions of years ago. Over the aeons, this technological marvel which we observe today as dark energy, decayed and became chaotic.  When humans or other sentient races interact with the Strange, pocket dimensions called recursions can form. Theses recursions often have different metaphysical foundations depending on the source of their creation. For example, fictional worlds based on the combined belief of large numbers of adherents can be formed, such as a world based on Greek mythology or a particularly popular work of fiction, such as the Cthulhu Mythos. Recursions based on these worlds would allow for whatever magic or alien science would be required to fully realize the details of such worlds. Sometimes these recursions pose a threat to earth and there are other things that reside in the Strange as well that are even more dangerous.

There are two major recursions detailed in the game, a magical fantasy realm of gods and heroes called Ardeyn and a weird science world of intrigue and alien technology called Ruk. Players can be natives of earth or either of these recursions and may travel among them. Numerous other smaller recursions are also described and gamemasters are free to create more using whatever fictional worlds inspire them. Admittedly, the results can get rather silly (i.e. one recursion is inhabited by puppets), but the possibilities are endless.


Giant Man: More from the Advanced Class Guide

Here is another Marvel Super Hero made from Pathfinder. Again this is something put together quickly so I'm sure you could tweak it to make it better or a bit more thematic. I know Giant Man doesn't use a huge sword but it works better in Pathfinder.

There were a few things that caught my eye back in my long Early Thoughts post on the ACG. Animal Soul allows you to cast many of the really great Druid buffs on yourself. The Primal Companion archetype for Hunter allows you to grant yourself a bunch of evolutions when your pet is dead/not available.

So with a swift action you can make yourself almost as tough as a Synthesist Summoner, and then use your standard action to drop Atavism or some other great Druid buff on yourself.  Sure the Teamwork feats become something of a waste but in most cases that's not a huge loss. Just leave yourself without an Animal Companion and you are very powerful.

Not game breaking by any means but could be fun.

Giant Man
Advanced Human Hunter (Primal Companion) 15
CN Huge humanoid (human)
Init +2; Senses Perception +27
AC 32, touch 12, flat-footed 32 (+11 armor, -2 size, +9 natural, +4 untyped)
hp 303 (15d8+195)
Fort +27, Ref +16, Will +21
DR 10/lawful; Immune electricity, fire
Speed 20 ft.
Melee +4 falchion +30/+25/+20 (3d6+40/15-20)
Space 15 ft.; Reach 15 ft.
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 15th; concentration +17)
   At will—raise animal companion (neg level when cast)
Hunter (Primal Companion) Spells Known (CL 15th; concentration +22):
   5th (4/day)—death ward, fire snake{super}APG{/super} (DC 22), stoneskin, summon nature's ally v, whip of centipedes
   4th (5/day)—atavism{super}UM{/super} (DC 21), dispel magic, echolocation{super}UM{/super}, freedom of movement, summon nature's ally iv
   3rd (7/day)—darkvision, life bubble{super}APG{/super} (DC 20), quench, spit venom{super}UM{/super} (DC 20), summon nature's ally iii, water walk
   2nd (7/day)—aboleth's lung{super}ARG{/super} (DC 19), allfood{super}APG{/super} (DC 19), barkskin, lesser restoration, protection from energy, sickening strikes{super}ARG{/super} (DC 19), summon nature's ally ii
   1st (7/day)—cure light wounds, endure elements, entangle (DC 18), faerie fire, resist energy, snowball (DC 18), summon nature's ally i
   0 (at will)—create water, detect magic, know direction, light, purify food and drink (DC 17), read magic
Str 45, Dex 10, Con 32, Int 10, Wis 24, Cha 14
Base Atk +11; CMB +29; CMD 44
Feats Animal Soul, Armor Proficiency (Heavy), Back to Back[UC], Furious Focus[APG], Improved Back to Back[UC], Improved Critical (falchion), Improved Spell Sharing, Intercept Charge, Iron Will, Outflank[APG], Pack Attack[UC], Power Attack, Toughness, Weapon Focus (falchion)
Skills Acrobatics -1, Appraise +2, Bluff +4, Climb +16, Diplomacy +4, Disguise +4, Escape Artist -1, Fly +10, Heal +9, Intimidate +4, Knowledge (dungeoneering) +20, Knowledge (geography) +20, Knowledge (nature) +20, Perception +27, Ride -1, Sense Motive +9, Stealth -9, Survival +27, Swim +16
Languages Common
SQ animal companion, greater empathic link, hunter tactics, improved empathic link, primal surge, primal transformation, raise animal companion, swift tracker, track +7, wild empathy +17, woodland stride
Other Gear +5 breastplate, +4 falchion, belt of physical might +4 (Str, Con), cloak of resistance +5, headband of inspired wisdom +6, 93,050 gp
Special Abilities
Animal Companion (Ex) If no current companion, summon nature's ally spells last 1 min/level but only 1 at a time.
Animal Companion Link (Ex) You have a link with your Animal Companion.
Animal Soul You can allow spls and eff that affect anim, anim comp and special mnts to affect you.
Back to Back +2 to AC vs flanking foes if adj to ally with this feat.
Damage Reduction (10/lawful) You have Damage Reduction against all except Lawful attacks.
Furious Focus If you are wielding a weapon in two hands, ignore the penalty for your first attack of each turn.
Greater Empathic Link (Su) Can communicate telepathically with animal companion in 1 mile.
Hunter Tactics (Ex) Animal companion also gains the bonus teamwork feats, but doesn't need to meet pre-reqs.
Immunity to Electricity You are immune to electricity damage.
Immunity to Fire You are immune to fire damage.
Improved Back to Back As a swift action when adj to flanked ally with this feat, gain +2 to AC against flanking foes.
Improved Empathic Link (10 mile) (Su) As the familiar ability, but as a swift action can see through companion's eyes (but not own).
Improved Spell Sharing Divide share spell dur evenly between you and companion. Can move apart w/o ending effect.
Intercept Charge When opp charges ally with feat, mv up to speed to get in way of charge.
Outflank Increase flank bonus by +2 if flanking ally has same feat. If you crit, ally gets an AoO.
Pack Attack Ally's attack allows you to take a 5-foot step
Power Attack -3/+6 You can subtract from your attack roll to add to your damage.
Primal Surge (Su) As a swift action, touch companion to grant it an extra evolution.
Primal Transformation (Animal Companion Dead, 15 minutes/day) (Su) As a swift action, activate eidolon evolutions on animal companion (or self if companion dies).
Raise Animal Companion (Sp) Can bring animal companions back to life, but incurs 1 negative level.
Share Spells with Companion (Ex) Can cast spells with a target of "you" on animal companion, as touch spells.
Speak With Master (Ex) You can communicate verbally with your familiar.
Swift Tracker (Ex) Tracking penalties when moving at normal speed or faster are reduced.
Track +7 Add the listed bonus to survival checks made to track.
Wild Empathy +17 (Ex) Improve the attitude of an animal, as if using Diplomacy.
Woodland Stride (Ex) Move through undergrowth at normal speed.

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Way of the Wicked 25

There was much kingdom running this session but not much fighting. The Kingdom of Talingarde is slowly being corrupted. The villains have begun constructing their Cathedral to Asmodeus and they have seized church lands and redistributed them to the poor (or their friends).

The borderlands were successfully pacified by Herr Eisenmark and the decision was made that rather than rebuild the Watch Wall (for now at least) they would try and pacify the North as well.  The Frost Giant Queen offered to lead this expedition is Herr Eisenmark was put under her control. The PCs agreed and the campaign to pacify the north succeeded with minimal loses. The PCs have pacified the north which no other King has managed to do before them.

The Iraen barbarians were brought into the fold when the 9th Knot managed to track and kill the legendary Bandersnatch. Prophecy holds that when the beast was killed and the slayer appeared wearing its hide and soaked in its blood that their Destiny would be revealed. For now the Iraen were told to wait.

The warrior nuns of Saint Celeste were slaughtered as they waited in the wilderness for the Princess Belinda's return.

A secret police force has been established to root out the growing resistance. One town revolted openly. The crown removed its protection of the town and the Dragon Jaratheon was sent to raze it. Few survived the dragon's assault and unrest in the kingdom quieted.

The PCs were attacked by Demonic Marilith assassins while they were holding a council meeting. Security is going to be increased. When the Hadreon Signet was dipped in the blood it began grating immunity to Fire and Poison and allowing DR to be bypassed for all evil outsiders. Since this was deemed pretty awesome the PCs have decided to locate the next monster on the list: a Titan.

A half Titan Kraken was located and the PCs began preparation to assault it. We'll see how it goes next game session.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Disney Infinity 2.0 lineup

With the announcement of the Disney Infinity 2.0 Toy Box Pack, it seems the final lineup of characters for this edition of the game has been revealed. There will only be three playsets and all will be based on Marvel properties, namely The Avengers, Spider-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy. Also, the six playsets from the original game will not be forward compatible, although the characters from the previous edition will be playable in the DI2 toy box mode. We also have what appears to be the final list of toy-box-only characters for DI2. They are:

Merida (Brave)
Maleficent (Maleficent)
Tinkerbell (Peter Pan)
Stitch (Lilo and Stitch)
Aladdin (Aladdin)
Jasmine (Aladdin)
Hiro (Big Hero 6)
Baymax (Big Hero 6)

It boggles the mind to stop and think about how much more intellectual property Disney still has available for future editions of this game.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Advanced Class Guide: Captain America

I was actually surprised how easy this was to put together and it actually seems pretty close to the comic book character. One thing I'm not clear on if it Brawler's Fury actually counts as the Two-Weapon Fighting Feat line or not. If it does then this build is valid, if not, well the Brawler suddenly becomes much less attractive. While Steve Roger's Super Serum is permanent, this guy has to make a new one every time his wears off (2.5 hours).

A full round attack would start at +27, hit up to 6 times and do 2D6+31 19-20/x2. A Pummeling Charge would be devastating. HP are only a 154 when the Super Serum is in effect which isn't great but there are a few feats that can be easily swapped around. Saves are decent and has enough skill points to invest in some useful skills. Plus, throwing your shield and having bounce off 6 opponents before returning to your hand is just cool.

Not super optimized but could hold her own in combat. One of my first builds from the ACG that turned out surprisingly well.

Captain America
Human Brawler (Mutagenic Mauler, Shield Champion) 15
N Medium humanoid (human)
Init +4; Senses Perception +23
AC 35, touch 14, flat-footed 35 (+9 armor, +8 shield, +4 natural, +4 deflection)
hp 124 (15d10+30)
Fort +16, Ref +14, Will +17
Defensive Abilities fortification 25%
Speed 30 ft.
Melee  light shield bash +30/+25/+20 (2d6+17/19-20) and
   unarmed strike +23/+18/+13 (2d6+8)
Special Attacks brawler's flurry
Str 27, Dex 10, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 20, Cha 10
Base Atk +15; CMB +23; CMD 37
Feats Greater Shield Focus, Greater Weapon Focus (shield, light), Greater Weapon Specialization (shield, light), Improved Critical (shield, light), Improved Initiative, Improved Shield Bash, Improved Unarmed Strike, Iron Will, Power Attack, Pummeling Charge, Pummeling Style, Quick Draw, Shield Focus, Shield Master, Shield Slam, Weapon Focus (shield, light), Weapon Specialization (shield, light)
Skills Acrobatics +16, Intimidate +18, Knowledge (dungeoneering) +18, Knowledge (local) +18, Perception +23, Sense Motive +23
Languages Common
SQ champion's defense, close weapon mastery, knockout, mutagen, mutagen damage bonus, mutagen discoveries (greater mutagen, preserve organs), returning shield, throw shield, unarmed strike
Combat Gear mutagen (greater); Other Gear +5 chain shirt, +5 light wooden quickdraw shield, amulet of natural armor +4, belt of giant strength +6, cloak of resistance +5, headband of inspired wisdom +6, ring of protection +4, 8,547 gp
Special Abilities
Brawler's Flurry +13/+13/+8/+8/+3/+3 (Ex) Can make full attack & gain two-wep fighting, but only with unarmed strike, close, or monk wep.
Champion's Defense (1/day) (Ex) When reduced to 0 hp by wep att, attempt Fort save to absorb half dam with shield.
Close Weapon Mastery (Ex) Weapons of the close group deal dam as unarmed strike at -4 levels.
Fortification 25% You have a chance to negate critical hits on attacks.
Greater Mutagen (Su) The alchemist’s mutagen now grants a +4 natural armor bonus, a +6 alchemical bonus to one physical ability score (Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution), and a +4 alchemical bonus to a second physical ability score. The alchemist takes a –2 penalty on
Improved Shield Bash You still get your shield bonus while using Shield Bash.
Improved Unarmed Strike Unarmed strikes don't cause attacks of opportunity, and can be lethal.
Knockout (2/day, DC 25) (Ex) Declare before attack, if hit then foe is unconscious 1d6 rds (Fort neg), resave each rd.
Mutagen (DC 17) (Su) Mutagen adds +4 to a physical & -2 to a mental attribute, and +2 nat. armor for 150 min.
Mutagen Damage Bonus +3 (Su) When in mutagenic form, gain a bonus to melee damage.
Power Attack -4/+8 You can subtract from your attack roll to add to your damage.
Preserve Organs 25% The alchemist learns how to preserve and protect his vital organs, reducing the chance of a mortal wound. When a critical hit or sneak attack is scored on the alchemist, there is a 25% chance that the critical hit or sneak attack is negated and damag
Pummeling Charge When using Pummeling Style, make Pummeling Style atk at end of charge.
Pummeling Style As full-rd act, make normal full attack or flurry, adding all dmg together into 1 hit.
Quick Draw Draw weapon as a free action (or move if hidden weapon). Throw at full rate of attacks.
Returning Shield (Ex) Thrown shield ricochets off multiple surfaces (or foes) to return.
Shield Focus +1 Shield AC
Shield Master No off-hand penalties for shield bashes, add a shield's enhancement bonus to attack rolls.
Shield Slam Shield Bash attack gives a free bull rush on a hit.
Throw Shield (Ex) Gain the benefit of Far shot when throw shields. Can use certain maneuvers at range.
Unarmed Strike (2d6) Extra unarmed strike dam, no off-hand dam reduction and don't need free hands to att.

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Advanced Class Guide: Early Thoughts

Well it's finally here. I bought the PDF on Thursday and tried to read through that but then gave in and bought the dead tree version yesterday from my FLGS. There is so much crunch in this book it is amazing. It has taken me two days to get through it although I'll happily admit that it will take months (or longer) to really play with all of the options. Herolab is updated with the product and I've just started testing things out.

There are lots of editing problems with this book. I don't usually have a great eye for detail so when even I notice lots of mistakes then there are lots of mistakes. Most of them are not critical like formatting mistakes or spelling mistakes but there were a couple instances where the crunch text is not logical (giving an ability at level 16 and then giving the upgrade at level 16, or incorrect entries in the level progression chart). For a book of this size with this much detail it is not surprising that a few mistakes slip through but there just seems to be more then usual (and some glaring ones like the cover).

Arcanist: At the beginning of the day fills their know spell slots from their spell book, can cast those spells as much as they want in any combination until their castings per level run out. grabs most of the flexibility from the wiz and the sorc. Has delayed casting like a sorc and gains exploits. Most of the exploits are pretty meh but there are a few really good ones like Counterspelling as an immediate action, Dimensional slide (short range teleport), or you can take a sorc bloodline and use points form the arcane reservoir to power it. The greater exploits upgrade these to be even better. I haven't built one in Herolab yet but seems really strong.

Bloodrager: Rather than nerf the strong bloodlines, they improved the weaker ones. The bloodrager is a very solid melee class comparable to the Barbarian for the top spot. The spell list is nearly perfect for the class. A well designed class.

Brawler: I had no interest in this class during the playtest but the final version has me intrigued. In the right kind of campaign this would be a great class to play. The brawler gets some very nice toys that might actually work (Knockout keyed to either str or dex), and is very flexible. Better than the base monk in pretty much every way imaginable. Built correctly this class can unload some pretty serious damage at high levels but suffers in the defense department. The brawler is unlikely to have great AC and has a poor will save. Both will be serious liabilities in most post level 10+ games.

Hunter: I really want to like this class but I am struggling to figure out how it holds its own compared to the druid. I tend to compare classes at levels 7 and 15. At 7, I think the Hunter is slightly superior but at 15 it's not even close and the druid is by far superior. I have to admit I'm not a huge fan of teamwork feats. Most are very situational and I tend to forget to apply the bonus. Again the hunter really doesn't have the defenses to survive high level melee combat. A great class for a lower level campaign.

Investigator: or as I like to call it - better than the rogue. A great class for a low combat campaign (not adventure paths), this class has options out the wazoo. Very effective at it's niche because of it's flexibility. Between this and the Slayer there is no reason for anyone to ever play a rogue again. Another well done class but not my cup of tea since we almost always play Adventure Paths.

Shaman: This is a class that is going to take a while for me to really get the feel for. It has taken me years to really appreciate what the Oracle brings to the table and I suspect this class is similar. My early sense is that it is a replacement for the Witch. The Shaman gets most of my favorite hexes (Flight is notable absent) and a bunch of extra Hexes from their spirits. Their spell list is surprisingly versatile and could cover the party healer role quite well although sadly Heal is listed as 7th level instead of 6th.

Skald: I still don't see this class as more than an archetype for Bards. There really isn't anything wrong with it but it just feels very niche. Although the Dawnflower Dervish is still a more effective battle bard this comes close in effectiveness. For a group with lots of melee type classes this guy would be great, otherwise not so much. Being able to give your party Pounce is pretty awesome I admit.

Slayer: I've been a big fan of this class. In my opinion it works best as an archer because like many other classes it isn't likely to hold up well in high level melee combat. The class borrows or mimics a lot of the Rangers crunch but uses the Rogue's fluff. In general I don't like Sneak attack since it is very situational and a nice thing about the Slayer is that it has Sneak attack but doesn't need it. Studied Target is a great mechanic and although not as strong as Favored Enemy, it is not dependent on the DM and you can use it when you like - no limits! Between that and full BAB, a Slayer should have no trouble hitting his foes.

Swashbuckler: While this wasn't the mobile fighter many people hoped for, I think they did a good job with the flavor for this class. Not a massive damage dealer, the swashbuckler can still survive in combat with Opportune Parry. Charmed Life should be able to boost his saves enough to survive although they are limited by use per day. My test PC looks ok but to really get a feel for the Panache mechanic. The swashbuckler definitely needs a wide critical range weapon to be effective.

Warpriest: There is so much to this class. Most of the blessings are rather meh but again many of the Desna blessing are superior (many are cribbed from the Domain powers). Too many powers are activated by Swift actions. The Warpriest has the same problem as the battle cleric - spending too many rounds buffing to be effective. I'm still on the fence with this class. The character is rolled up looks ok but didn't really stand out form what any other class can do. It's like a slightly more caster, less martially paladin with no alignment restrictions. I admit I have not set one up as an archer so its possible that I am missing something there but so far I think I prefer a melee Inquisitor to a melee Warpriest. And what is up with 2 skill ranks per level for a non - Int based class? Yuck.

Archetypes and Class Options: There are too many here to go through all of them but a few did stand out for me.

Blade Adept: This is a terrible archetype for the Arcanist unless you were going to use it as entry into Eldritch Knight in which case it is actually really good.
Blood Arcanist really steps on the Sorcerer's toes by getting a full Bloodline.
White Mage: Sure an Arcanist can now cast a few Cure Spells. Is it worth it? Not really.

GreenRager: stands out because it is so bad. At level 13 you can cast Summon Nature's Ally IV. Why would you summon a 5 HD monster? Admittedly you only give up a couple bloodline feats for this but it is still pretty bad.
Primalist is really good. You can take either your Bloodline power or two Barbarian rage powers. Flexibility at no cost!

Mutagenic Brawler: A mutagen with the usual awesomeness, adds bonus damage, and sensory and movement bonuses. All it costs is Martial Flexibility and the AC bonus.
Shield Champion: You are now Captain America. Looks cool, not sure its optimal.

Order of the Beast: Wait, isn't there already an Order of the Beast? Yes there is.
Daring Champion: A Cavalier who swashbuckles. You can get some massive damage bonuses with this combination. Loses the Mount.

Nature Fang: Druid trades most of his Naturey stuff and WildShape for a Slayers Studied Target and Sneak Attack (although it doesn't say he actually gets a Slayers sneak attack progression - if this is not an error this archetype sucks.)

Mutation Warrior: Trade Armor Training for Mutagen. This is pretty good except the levels where you get the mutagen discoveries are poorly aligned so no Greater Mutagen until 15 and no Grand until 19. Oh well, 50% fortification at level 11 is nothing to sneeze at.

Bolt Ace: A gunslinger with a Crossbow. Less damage then a full fledged Composite Longbow Archer, and without the annoyance of having your weapon explode in your face. These actually make Crossbows pretty damn good and you get many of the same tricks that Gunslingers do. Less unbalancing than the Slinger but still useful.

Primal Companion Hunter: An animal companion with Eidolon evolutions. Sweet! what's this? If the pet dies, the Hunter gets the Evolutions? Even better!

Sanctified Slayer: So this trades Judgement for the Slayer's Studied Target, Sneak Attack Progression and 4 Slayer Talents (although these come late)? Sign me up. Yes, I don't like Sneak Attack but I like it a lot more when I have Improved Invisibility on my spell list.

Eldritch Scion: A magus with all of his stuff based on Cha and doesn't need a spell book.

Kata Master: A swashbuckling Monk? Cool!!! Wait a minute, all of his new powers are based off Cha making this archetype the most MAD archetype ever!! Who designed this POS? Seriously unless you play in a campaign where you roll for stats and your boyfriend is the DM no one is ever going to play this.

Hooded Champion: You can be Robin Hood! A ranger who is a duelist and an archer. Will be tough to find enough feats to keep both styles effective.

Animist: This Shaman can remove negative status effects with a high diplomacy role as she talks the spirits away. That's awesome!

Fated Champion: This archetype for the Skald is pretty good. A bonus to Initiative, an improvement to the Rage song, and a very expensive re-roll ability.

Mysterious Avenger: You are now Zoro!
Picaroon: I was hoping to get a swashbuckler archetype that would also grant weapon training so you could use either a sword or a gun effectively. This one comes close but isn't quite what I wanted. Guess I'll have to make a gunslinger that takes Slashing Grace.

Champion of the Faith: A warpriest that can smite! Too bad it is still keyed to Cha and requires two uses of Fervor to activate.
Sacred Fist: A monk Warpriest! While perhaps not as awesome as it seems this could be a lot of fun. A monk with delayed Cleric casting. Divine Power + Righteous Might

Exploiter Wizard. Trades a school for many of the Arcanist's tricks. Worth it!

Most of the new feats are very niche. Many are so situational as to be next to useless. Some are rendered useless to most classes by inexplicably having combat Expertise as a prerequisite. Some are just terrible no matter what, but a few are quite good. Here are some of my favorites.

Amateur Swashbuckler: Take this and the Opportune Parry deed. Now the Barbarian with the Falchion can parry too!

Animal Soul: Now all of those nice Druid buffs that are animal only can be cast on you! Too bad about the Animal Companion or Mount requirement. Animal Growth, Atavism, Steel Jaw.

Blooded Arcane Strike: A must have for Bloodragers. No longer must you spend your Swift action every turn on Arcane Strike.

Disheartening Display: They are shaken after Dazzled, now they are frightened after this Feat. Great if you can Dazzling display as a Free or Swift Action.

Divine Protection: Divine Grace for non-paladins. 5 ranks in Knowledge religion, ability to cast a 2nd level divine spell and either have a blessing, domain, or mystery class feature. Pretty much a no-brainer feat for any Oracle or Cleric that didn't dump Charisma.

Expanded Preparation: An extra spell slot at your highest level - for Arcanists.

Gruesome Slaughter/Killing Flourish: great for melee Slayers.

Merciless Butcher: Coup de Gras as a swift action. Requires Dastardly Finish and Studied Target so its acquired a bit late to be useful for a Slayer but would be pretty sweet in the hands of a Vivisectionist if he is facing off against lots of stunned opponents.

Pummeling Style: No matter how you interpret this Feat it is great. It it just applies to actual punches as the flavor text suggests it is great for Brawlers and Monks. If it applies to all weapons as the crunch suggests then this feat is insanely over powered. Combine all hits in one round into one blow. If any of the hits are confirmed critical hits then then entire thing is a critical. Crazy!

Pummeling Charge: You can Charge and then end the charge with a Pummeling Strike. AWESOME! It's super Pounce.

Slashing Grace: Dex to Damage for one handed slashing weapons. Yay! Wait a minute. You can't use Weapon Finesse with these weapons so you are still SOL unless you are using the Elven Curve Blade or the Aldori Dueling Sword. Oddly, there is no feat in this book allowing Dex to Damage for Rapiers or light weapons. Apparently it is coming in the next big book. Oops.

Steadfast Personality: Charisma modifier to Will saves vs Mind-Affecting Effects. Sweet since it stacks with Divine Protection. Great for non-divine casters.

Twist Away: Requires Evasion. Allows you to make Reflex saves in the place of Fortitude saves but leaves you staggered for a turn. Still very useful if you have a hopeless Fort save.

I haven't had a chance to go over all of the spells or magic items in great detail yet but no spells really jumped at me as being must haves. There were a few magic items.

Boots of the Battle Herald: 30 rounds of Greater Heroism a day. Wow.

Various Rings that expand the Summon Monster list. Cool idea.

 Brass Spider: Remote Disable Device or a bonus if up close.

Cape of Daring Deeds: great for Swashbucklers

Well that's it for now. Back to HeroLab to see what other awesome things there are to find.

**I keep finding more stuff so there may be some stealth edits as I add or change things. Sacred Fist is not as awesome as I hoped.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Still more Marvel for Disney Infinity

The newest video announcement for Disney Infinity 2.0 reveals new details on improvements to the toybox mode, but that is not all that is revealed. At one point in the video, we see this:

That appears to be either Power Man (aka Victor Alvarez) or the younger version of Luke Cage from the Ultimate Spider-Man TV series. It's hard to decide which of these is more likely. Obviously Luke Cage is better known, but he is usually seen as older with some facial hair. Power Man, on the other hand, is not widely known, but does have a strong connection to Iron Fist, another less well-known character which has already been announced as being in DI2. Either way, what I really want to know is, will this be another playable character in the game? Disney has repeatedly done this, showing brief cameos of not yet announced characters in videos of other aspects of the game. Between the two excellent movie releases this year and all the upcoming stuff for DI2, I am on a serious Marvel high right now....and I'm not even a comic book guy.


Update: Upon further research, it seems the Luke Cage version from Ultimate Spider-Man is also named Power Man, so it's a safe bet, that is what this character will be called. Since we will have Spider-Man, Nova, Iron Fist and probably Power Man, can White Tiger be far behind?

Further update: Power Man (Luke Cage) and White Tiger (among others) will not be playable at this time.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Duck is back!

Although it has been suspected for sometime, now it's official: Donald Duck is coming to Disney Infinity 2.0. That brings the current known characters to twenty-five:

The Avengers playset - Thor, Ironman, Black Widow, The Hulk and Hawkeye
The Spider-Man playset - Spider-Man, Venom, Nick Fury, Iron Fist and Nova
The Guardians of the Galaxy playset - Star-Lord, Groot, Rocket Raccoon, Drax the Destroyer and Gamora
Marvel villains - Green Goblin, Loki and Ronan the Accuser
Toybox only - Merida, Maleficent, Tinkerbell, Stitch, Aladdin, Jasmine, Donald Duck

There is still over five weeks until the release date for DI2. We have been getting, on average, one new release announcement each week for the last month so hopefully there will be more forthcoming. Notably, we haven't heard anything about their plans for the Big Hero 6 franchise. Of course, they might hold that one back until they are closer to the release of the film.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Way of the Wicked 24

Cardinal Thorn is dead (well, really dead) and the Agathium is in the hands of our anti-heroes.

This session had a fair bit of roleplaying, lots of discussions and very little combat.

The decision was made to continue Thorn's plan. Tiadaora was sent to find find the 6th Knot (Cedric Malthus) who was supposed to be out raising an army. He was found and returned to the Agathium. Cedric is the flexible sort and after finding out that things had changed, he informed the 9th Knot that he expected a place on the ruling council and maybe a rich barony or something for all of his troubles. The 9th agreed and then returned to the army encampment and negotiated for both the larger army of murderers and cut-throats as well as the services of Herr Eisenmark, captain of the continent's finest mercenary army. They were not cheap but now paid for, they began to embark onto their transport craft and headed for Matharyn.

Next a visit was paid to Fire-Axe. He was saddened that his days in the sun were coming to an end but laid out his plan for his army's destruction. He asked that the PC's rescue him. The one caveat of his plan was that it was likely some of his elite warriors may escape the trap. There needed to be someone or someones to prevent them from breaking out. The PCs agreed to be there to stop them.

The mercenary army arrived and marched near Matharyn on their way to the fields of Tamberlyn. There the trap was set. The Fire-Axe marched his army into the trap where archers rained death upon the monsters, while Herr Eisenmark's elite cavalry assaulted form the rear. As predicted a number of monsters tried to break out but were met by the PCs who mowed them down with little difficulty. Sakkarot Fire-Axe's horde was no more bug the bugbear himself was rescued from a grim fate by the timely intervention of Tiadora who removed the genral from the battle in the final minutes.

Up to this point the PCs were a bit unsure what to do with Vastenus Barca, the traitor general that led the Knights of Allerian to their doom at Daveryn. Thorn had promised him the crown, but he rubbed the PCs the wrong way and they had a better candidate of the own (the now Cardinal Hellcrate, whom the PCs had added to the Liber Darius). The PCs had brought him along to see how he did in battle and were hoping that he suffer an accidental death. With the giants of Fire-Axe's horde being contained in rings of Blade Barriers and being snuffed out by Earthquakes and Implosion spells, the risk level was pretty low so one of the clerics "accidentally targeted Barcus with an Implosion and that was the end of the traitor.

Marching back to Matharyn at the head of their victorious army they were met by the Mayor Hubert Rowen and Leothyn Barca (the very old younger brother of the last Barcan king).  The city was surrendered to the PCs and Hellcrate made his claim to the throne. Leothyn Barca looked skeptical but said nothing.

A coronation was held that was extremely lavish as fitting of one representing the mighty Asmodeus. Duke Hadrian of Ghastenhall failed to attend the coronation and sent a delegate in his stead. The duke was informed that he had to attend and swear fealty. He sent a doppelganger in his place. The PCs discovered the trick, and disguised Gorbatch as the Duke and returned him to Ghastenhall. The real Duke emerged form hiding and congratulated his ambassador on the successful deceit only to have Gorbatch cleave him in two. As word got out that the Duke was dead, his mercenary guards fled looting as they went. The Duke's heir, his 14 year-old nephew was now the new duke and quickly swore fealty to the new King.

 A ruling council was formed, although a few members would only attend for urgent matters or that directly affected their sphere of influence. The ruling council consisted of the PCs (who make all of the real decisions), Leothyn Barca, Mayor Hubert, Cedric Malthus, Baroness Vanya, Queen Ellisif of the Frost Giants, Gaius Richter, and Mallory Hawthorn.

Only two month's into the reign, Herr Eisenmark has led a large expedition into the Borderlands to quell any remaining monster troops and to see what would be required to rebuild the Watch Wall the the PCs breached oh so long ago. There are no plans to build a new cathedral but there seems to be some thoughts of converting the Mitran temple into a temple devoted to Asmodeus. So far they are just in the early stages of trying to corrupt the Mitran church. With the High Cardinal missing along with some of the church's money, the PCs are trying to get Brother Thane nominated as the new High Cardinal.

And I think that covers everything. The Princess Belinda is missing and cannot be found. Their have been no sightings of her mother (an ancient wyrm silver dragon). The High Inquisitor Tyrath abandoned the capital when the PCs won at Tamberlyn and took whatever he could carry with him.

For now the PCs rule unopposed. At long last they are now the rulers of Talingarde. What will they do with their new found power? Can they keep it?

Friday, August 08, 2014

Aladdin joins Disney Infinity 2.0

The latest announcement from Disney Infinity 2.0 reveals the addition of Aladdin and Jasmine to the list of playable characters, although they will not be part of a playset. While not as awesome as all the Marvel goodies we've seen thus far, this announcement has certainly got my daughters excited. Jasmine will make a nice addition to the "Disney Fightin' Princesses" supers team they're building.


Thursday, August 07, 2014


Ugh, when it comes to gaming this is always the worst time of the year for me. There is lots of sweet stuff coming out for Gencon and the internet is alive with hints and previews. I am especially interested in the Paizo's Advanced Class Guide (ACG) this year. While most of the new classes seem rather meh, there seems to be lots of other crunch in the book that sounds pretty awesome.

So far it is looking like an optimizers dream in that it makes it easier to combine features from different classes without having to Dip. So far I've seen previews of things that make rogues and monks less bad and might actually make crossbows a viable weapon (in fact they might be awesome).

Of course these are just hints and previews and I have to wait at least one more week before I can buy the PDF. Usually the FLGS is slow to get product in so it might be even longer before I can get a hardcopy.

Oh the trials in my life...

Monday, August 04, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy

I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy last night and it was very enjoyable. Perhaps not as engaging as Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but GotG is a genuinely fun movie. It delivered a few good laughs, some exciting action sequences and first-rate performances. Best of all, it didn't resort to campiness, which a movie featuring a talking raccoon could have easily done. I give it my highest recommendation.

On a related note, during our recent US roadtrip, we did a fair bit of shopping and I noticed some of the Guardians of the Galaxy merchandise appearing in stores. I was unhappy to see a total absence of Gamora in any of it. Some products even had all four of the other characters featured, but no Gamora. As the father of two girls who do actually like comic book characters, I found this very frustrating. Disney should be better than this.


Sunday, August 03, 2014

A visit to the EMP Museum in Seattle

Seattle is a beautiful city. I visited it for the first time this past week. One highlight of the trip was a visit to the EMP Museum. This museum is dedicated to popular culture, notably rock music and fantasy/sci-fi/horror. In particular, the "Icons of Science Fiction" exhibit was awesome. Presented below are some of my pictures:
"You sold a reverberating carbonizer with mutate capacity to an unlicensed cephalopoid, Jeebs, you piece of shit!"

"No! Try not! Do...or do not. There is no try."

"It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity or remorse or fear. And it will not stop. Ever. Until you are dead."

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't let you do that."

"Risk is our business. That's what this starship is all about. That's why we're aboard her."


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Disney Infinity 2.0 - Villains!

The latest announcement for Disney Infinity 2.0 introduces the key villains for the three Marvel playsets; Loki, Green Goblin and Ronan the Accuser, and they're playable. This is not a huge surprise as these characters were already known to be in the game from previous videos and playable villains are not unprecedented. Davy Jones and Syndrome were playable in the first edition. Nonetheless, the introduction of three more characters which are playable in all the Marvel playsets is pretty cool.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Way of the Wicked 23

The assault on the Agathium continued in our latest session. After retreating at the end of the last game, they rested, leveled up, and were ready to go again.

This time the Agathium seemed to block any manner of teleporting or etherealness. For some reason there was great reluctance to go in through the front door (I was hoping they come crashing in through the stained glass windows) so they disintegrated a fairly large hole at the mack of the cathedral and entered that way.

They encountered the Frost Giant Queen Ellisif, who didn't seem all that concerned that the 9th Knot had murdered her husband. She made a bargain with them. If they win she will gain some influence in their new kingdom (a spot on their ruling council) and they will do what they can to protect her Frost Giants that have come south. In return she provided them with a map of the lower level and some intel on its occupants. The PCs accepted the deal and made their way to one of the stairs leading to the lower level.

The plan was the same as it was against the dragon Eirmanthus. Rush him and kill him before he has a chance to summon allies. The PCs buffed up and everyone had Fly. They raced through the lower level, going past some "Deathknights" before entering Cardinal Thorn's throne room. Initiative was rolled, and the PCs rushed him and killed him on the first blow. It seems it was a decoy and the entire room was trapped. Cube of force appeared trapping the PC and then subjecting them to force blades inside. Most of the PCs dodged the Cubes as they appeared and only the wizard was trapped. He dodged the first round of the blades attacking him and then disintegrated the cube allowing himself to escape.

The PCs fled the room and waited in the hall for the Deathknights to catch up. They didn't arrive as expected and the PCs were watching their buffs run down. A couple minutes later, the Anti-paladin Wolfram arrived leading all of the Deathknights that were present in the Agathium (some were out patrolling for the PCs). The battle was long but not overly dangerous to the PCs. They managed to block the hallway and were only being attacked from a single direction so they squishier people in the back were safe.

Their next stop was Grigori the wizard. As suggested by Ellisif, they approached diplomatically and through some decent roleplaying and excellent rolling they managed to turn the unhappy Necromancer helpful. Grigori was no longer so thrilled to be working for Thorn and as long as the PCs left him in peace and allowed to continue to work on "the machine" then he would reveal Thorn's location.

The 9th Knot located the secret door and moved into the secret section of the lower complex. They decided to head straight for the throne room and attack. Cardinal Thorn was waiting for them there and after a short monologue the battle began. Thorn was not alone as it first appeared and the wizard quickly realized that Tiadora and 6 barbed devils were present. The barbed devils used Hold person and Scorching Ray, Tiadora grappled with Gorbatch to keep him from killing Thorn in 2 rounds. However Sergent was very effective at preventing Thorn from casting his spells and was immune to Thorns physical attacks. Thorn died, Tiadora surrendered and the Devils returned to Hell. I think it was a fairly challenging battle but none of the PCs were in any real danger of dying.

With the death of Thorn Book 5 is effectively done. The PCs are now in control. There are a few clean-up issues to deal with but I think some of that can be dealt with by email and we'll be ready for Book 6.

Book 6 is an interesting beast. The first section of the book deals with completing Thorn's plan, which for 18th levels heroes, should be a piece of cake. The middle section of the book is almost all roleplaying and a lot of work for me to get set up.

I predict only another 3 play sessions unless there are parts a head that take much longer than I expect. Depending on what the PCs do it might only be 2. I am already looking at the ending and trying to decide how to run it to make sure that it is tough enough. Should Good or Evil win?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

More on Disney Infinity 2.0

It seems like every week there is a couple of new announcements of what will be available in the Disney Infinity 2.0 game coming out this fall. So far, we know for certain there will be three playsets based on Marvel properties. They are:

The Avengers - Thor, Ironman, The Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye
Spider-Man - Spider-Man, Nick Fury, Nova, Venom and Iron Fist
Guardians of the Galaxy - Starlord, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Rocket Raccoon and Groot

We also know of several Disney characters that will be available for toybox play; Merida, Maleficent, Tinkerbell and Stitch.

Then there are the rumoured releases based on leaks from vendors. These include Donald Duck and a possible Big Hero 6 playset with at least Hiro Hamada and Baymax coming out to coincide with the release of the film.

So now it's time for speculation. The original Disney Infinity game had six playsets; Pirates of the Caribbean, The Incredibles, Cars, The Lone Ranger, Monsters University and Toy Story. It seems likely that there will be as many or more in DI2. Since Big Hero 6 looks to be the big Disney animated feature for the fall, with lots of potential characters including female characters, I would guess it is almost certain to be released as a playset. However, that means four Marvel properties will figure prominently in the game. I can't imagine there will be more. I am going to go out on a limb and predict a playset based on one of the princess properties. Right now, I am leaning toward Brave. We already know that Merida is coming. The addition of Queen Elinor in bear form and maybe King Fergus would make a suitable playset. The other possibility would be a Frozen playset. Elsa and Anna have already been released, but a further release of Kristoff and Olaf as a playset is certainly an option (and a license to print money). More announcements coming up this weekend at San Diego Comic Con.


Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Stampede Road Race 2014

Last Sunday was the 7th annual Calgary Stampede Road Race - called such because it takes place during the Stampede not through any affiliation.

As I was prepping the night before the race I had the horrible realization that I had forgotten to pick up my race package. Apparently you could pick-up your package the morning of the race but it was supposed to be for out-of-towners only. I was hoping that they only say that to encourage people to pick up the kits ahead of time and decided to go anyway.

The race starts at 7:30 so while I had to get up early it was not the crazy early starts of the Disney races. I made sure I was there early to get easy parking and have time to pick-up my race kit. I was able to do so and still had time to walk back to my car and stick the none essentials inside so I did not have to use the bag check. Now equipped with my bib and timing chip I walked over to the starting line and hung out for 30 minutes until things got started. They let the slow-pokes leave at 7:00 (people with an expected 2:45+ finish time) so they won't be out there long after everyone else. The 10km runners depart at 8am.

While killing time, at one point the MC went over the timeline of getting all of the different pieces ready for race day. Permits are requested almost a year in advance and shirts are ordered over 9 months in advance (which is why they never have enough of the right sizes). It gave me a good appreciation of all of the work that goes into making the race a success.

After getting eaten by a bunch of mosquitoes the gun went off and we took off from our starting line near the Glenmore track. I am always amazed at how adrenaline causes runners to start off at such stupid paces. I'm pretty fast and started up near the front but there was still a surge of people that roared past me in the first couple minutes. A few minutes later these same people are wheezing and muttering "too fast" under their breath. I prefer to start a tiny bit slower than my target pace for the first kilometre until I'm fully warmed up. I also like the psychological boost of passing people.

It was a bit warm that morning but completely overcast with little wind so it was almost perfect running conditions. By the time I had made it to the dam the pack had really thinned out and there were only 20 or so people left a head of me. I hit the aid station coming up the hill after the dam and grabbed some water. I've never tried what they were offering for energy drink so I played it safe. I normally don't stop for water either but it was warm and I need practice for marathons. I really didn't want dehydration cramps.

I passed a few more people as I went by the hospital. Sometimes its hard to tell if the person you are passing is someone that has run out of gas from the lead group or were one of the early starts that is running particularly strong. I passed the Ken and Barbie Australian couple as I rounded Heritage Park. I seem to remember them from a different race where they passed me easily and never looked back.

The south side of the reservoir is a lot of small rolling hills which can be rather draining on a bad day. I was still feeling strong and was staying a head of my desired pace. I hit the second Aid station but felt the water sloshing around and deicided to skip the next one. At about the 44 minute mark I passed the mid point. I wasn't exactly sure because my stupid Garmin had lost its satellite signal at Kilometre 4 and I was now dependent on my foot pod to track my pace. My goal for the race was 1:32:00 or 4:20/kilometre which I was exceeding, but I also knew the last 7 kilometres of this course are rough and I slowed down through there last year. Still, finishing under 1:30:00 was within my reach.

As I came to the big downhill I passed the blonde that I'd been tailing for quite a while. My legs felt good and the pathway was dry so let gravity do its thing and blasted down the hill as fast as I could barely staying in control. I can get up to almost 30 km/hr on a good downhill like those and although they can wreck my feet and knees I find it worth the risk on a race.

At the bottom I resumed my normal pace and tried to recover a bit as I continued on over the forested flood plain. My Garmin was not reporting correctly and it didn't take long to figure out that somewhere coming down the hill my foot pod had popped off. I was now stuck having to reset my watch so I could track my pace.

The course's worst hill is coming up out of that flood plain and I passed yet another guy. I guess all of my hill training paid off. At the top was the second to last Aid station and I hit this one for more water. Those few seconds of walking enable me to actually drink the water and drop my heart rate a bit before taking off again. My Garmin was back up and running now.

Running along the north end of the the reservoir I could only see 5 people a head of me. One I would catch just as the path turns north leaving the park. The next two remained frustratingly distant.

The section that runs north out of North Glenmore park towards Glenmore Trail is long and a slight incline. I find this to be the most psychologically difficult part of the race. It is still about 4 kilometres to the end and I'm always really, really tired by this point. I was also starting to cramp up.

I changed up my breathing and pushed on. Up ahead was where the 10k runners route joined ours and there was a mass of people. I came around the corner and joined the pack and heard a great cry of "Go Obiri" from behind me. It was some of my coworkers running the 10k. I did an over the shoulder wave and used the boost to pick up my pace.

As I ran up the ramp of the pedestrian bridge over Glenmore I could hear the whispers of the 10kers as I dodged around them: "OMG. He's fast","Wow he's a half marathoner". Their tears were delicious.

Coming down the ramp on the far side I realized I was close to another Halfer. The white haired guy had passed him and now I was coming up on his tail. He looked over his should twice at me which I interpreted as a sign of weakness. I used the downhill stretch again to my advantage and passed him and rounded the corner onto the final long stretch. There were hordes of 10kers everywhere and I spotted the white-haired guy ahead. With a little less than 2km to go, I kicked up my breathing into hyperventilation mode and made my big final push. Weaving around other runners is not the most efficient way to run but at times the psychological value exceeds the energy cost. This was one of those times.

As I blaze past the runners I can feel them become demoralized. It only makes me stronger. The white haired halfer is getting close now. My heart is pounding but I'm gaining on him quickly now. I pass him on the outside and then make the turn into the athletic park. There is a short stretch of running on grass to get up onto the track that sucks a lot out of me. It takes a moment to refocus and I push on. Somehow with the finish line so close I dig a bit deeper and sprint to the finish. I cross the finish line a big sweaty mess but very happy. I managed to finish with a 1:28:46 time which is 3 minutes better than my previous best and 8 minutes faster than I ran this race last year. Aside from the initial burst I was never passed by anyone the entire race which I think is a first for me. I also finished 11th overall. Still not top 10 yet but getting close.

So yeah, I loved the race. In fact I'm still fairly high from it 2 days later. It's not too big participant wise (less than 2000 runners), there were lots of water stations and the volunteers kept us on track. I don't remember any entertainment but I fall into a trance after the first few kilometres and don't care about that stuff anyway. There is a very nice stampede breakfast available at the end of the race. It always has a big line and I wasn't hungry anyway. There are all sorts of fun kid family events except this year I was solo and went home after I'd said hello to everyone that was participating that I knew.

Stampede Road race is a solid well organized event.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Way of the Wicked 22

I think there was some anxiety going into last nights session. People were worried about the Linnorm and a possible TPK. It turns out those fears were unfounded. We had 5 players so there was lots of firepower ready to go.

The party airwalked the the cairn lair of Nithoggr and set up a base camp a few thousand feet away. The wizard remotely scouted the lair using magic and had a pretty good idea what manner of creatures lived inside and where the Linnorm made his home. The wizard had a pretty good idea what sort of Linnorm Nithoggr was and what any of his special abilities were (Acid and Negative energy).

Rather than waste time clearing out the cairn the party just rushed through hoping that the other inhabitants were scared of the linnorm and would not interfere with the fight. The battle itself turned to be easier than expected. Everyone was initially blasted with negative energy-laced acid and then melee combat began. Nithoggr hates Cold Iron weapons and targets people who carry them. Fortunately for the party Sargent Fenton, the impossible to hit halfling, was carrying one and the Linnorm spent most of his actions trying to kill him in vain. The deathblow was actually dealt by the Anti-paladin who made a sky high saving throw to avoid the Linnorm's Death Curse. With the death of the Linnorm the party was attacked by the cairns of fearsome inhabitants - Banshees and Dread Wraiths. Under other circumstances this would have been a super nasty encounter but with everyone buffed with Death Ward it was a cake walk as the undead only had death attacks or negative energy powers. The 9th Know looted the Linnorm's vast horde and found Thorn's phylactery.

They decided to destroy it and shortly after another Devil showed up. I didn't wish to fight and twisted Thorn's instructions to kill the party. I informed the party where the Agathium is located and then departed.

The party again windwalked to the location and then D-Doored past the front door only to be met by some of Thorn's allies - The King of the Frost Giants and 4 of his personal guard. This encounter turned out to be much scarier then the Linnorm and the King had as many hit points as the Linnorm and could inflict far more damage. Everyone except Sargent Fenton took tons of damage this encounter with the Anti-paladin almost dying, the wizard getting knocked unconscious, and even the BloodRagers vast hit points were almost completely depleted. What guaranteed victory was casting Maze on the King. With him out of the way, his guards could be dealt with and then the King got Gang-banged when he escaped the Maze.

This one encounter depleted a ton of party resources so they have decided to retreat and heal up (and level up to 17 - 9th level spells!). In two weeks we'll see how the rest of the Agathium goes.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Way of the Wicked 21

This session started with the PCs realizing that with Chargammon's death, his horde was likely undefended. They waited one night to heal and regain their spells from their adventure in the Adarium and teleported back to the lair.

Searching the caves they found nothing of interest until they reached the large dark murky pool that Chargammon called home. There seemed to be an odd current, almost as if something were moving...

Sergeant, the halfling shield fighter vampire, tied a rope around his waste and plunged into the murky depths.  Before long he was attacked by an enormous water elemental and Gorbach the Bloodrager pulled him out of the water.

He decided to go for a second swim and this time was attacked by a draconic creature that was concealed in the murky blackness. It got off a lucky hit and did significant damage and again Sergeant retreated.

The party came up with a plan to attack the creatures hidden in the darkness and spent the night changing out their spells. By the next day they were able to search the pool and discover the now almost empty treasure chamber.

Returning to their base, Eirmanthus' former island, they ran into Tiadora and her 9 Erinyes sisters who offered to take them to Cardinal Thorn to get their reward. The party made a bunch of lame excuses to her and kept putting her off until they could figure out what to do next. While they waited they took this moment to write the party cleric, Helcrate into the Libre Darius as a long lost scion of the family
They teleported to Baroness Vanya's manor only for Dessiter the Contract Devil to meet them there. He congratulated them on their accomplishments and offered to take them to see his master, the Pit Fiend Narburus. The loop hole in their contract with Thorn is that it only applies as long as Thorn is the high priest of Asmodeus in Talingarde. The party talked up their great deeds in Asmodeus' name and then Helcrate petitioned for the position of High Priest, usurping Thorn's position. I think everyone enjoyed the role-playing encounter with Nabarus. Gorbatch declared it "the most Metal scene ever in D&D" and then played air guitar.

Returning to their base, Tiadora refused to accept any more delays and a battle erupted. The devils were easily defeated but Tiadora escaped.

Shortly after they were contacted by their old associate Barnabus Thrane, fake Mitran priest, member of the 6th knot and distributor of the Tears of Achlys. He asked them to hurry to Ghastenhall so he could meet with them. The PCs arrived promptly and had a quiet meeting in the basement of the temple library. Thrane complained of not receiving any communications from Thorn. He had spotted the princess trying to raise an army and learned that Sir Richard the Paladin was on his way to Chargammon's lair to try to loot the dragon's treasure to help fund the army. The PCs had a good laugh about that and then teleported to the island to see if they could intercept Richard and his companions.

They arrived shortly after Richard did and caught up with them as they were just about to search Chargammon's pool. The battle was brief. I rolled poorly on initiative and the entire 9th Know got to go before any of the heroes. Helcrate walked into the middle of the fray and blasted the heroes with Stormbolts stunning the cleric and wizard. Gorbach almost killed Richard with a single critical hit and Richard responded by missing Gorbatch three times in a row due to Displacement. The Gunslinger was effective, nearly killing Helcrate, but then Twitch the wizard hit him with Maze on his next turn removing him from the fight.Richard was finished off by Gorbatch and then the wizard and cleric were dispatched before they even got to do anything. The party stood around waiting for the Gunslinger to find his way out of the maze and slew him the instant he reappeared. So much for my custom party.

One piece of info Dessiter had given the party before his departure was the nature of Cardinal Thorn. Thorn is a powerful Lich, and Dessiter recommended that the party locate Thorn's phylactery before they face him. Using Commune they manage to narrow down the possible locations of the phylactery and then Thrane was able to research the location using the great library in Ghastenhall. Given the clues the 9th Knot had given him he was quite sure it could be found in an ancient barrow far in the north that is currently the lair of an ancient Linnorm known as Nithogg'r.

And there we ended for the night.

Disney Infinity at E3

Following up on previous announcements that the starter pack for Disney Infinity 2.0 would feature the Avengers playset with Thor, Black Widow, the Hulk, Ironman and Captain America, Disney revealed at E3 2014 that still more Marvel goodness would be forthcoming. The Spider-Man playset was announced and will include Venom, Nick Fury (?), and lesser known superheroes, Nova and Iron Fist joining Spidey to thwart the machinations of a much bulked-up Green Goblin. They also revealed improvements to the game to attract older players including skill trees and character death. It all looks really good and has the potential to direct my kids away from their Skylanders addiction. If I have one wish, it would be more female characters. My daughters love the battle princesses and the addition of Maleficent, Merida and Black Widow are great, but a few more would be awesome. If anyone from Disney reads this (snicker!), might I suggest a Mulan playset, or since you are already releasing Maleficent, why not Princess Aurora as well.

A further note, one has to wonder how the Guardians of the Galaxy is going to make an appearance in Disney Infinity 2.0. We have already seen Rocket Raccoon and Groot in the Avengers playset trailer a while ago. Nova Corps figures prominently in the upcoming film and the character of Nova (or Nova Prime) is the commander of that organization.


Monday, June 09, 2014

Skylanders vs. Disney Infinity

I’ve mentioned before that my kids really love the toy line/video game Skylanders. It combines a selection of figures with RFID chips embedded in their bases and a peripheral device for a game console called a “portal” which allows you to play your Skylander figure as a character in the game. It was a clever moneymaking scheme for Activision, so it’s not surprising that there would be imitators. Well, the new kid on the block is none other than the Godzilla of kid’s entertainment itself, Disney. We resisted for awhile, but the figures for the Disney Infinity game are just so good and include such squee-inducing IPs as Frozen, Tangled, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Incredibles, Toy Story and Cars. It was the Frozen figures that broke the seal for us. The Elsa and Anna figures are very nice and my daughters are as obsessed with them as any other little girls in North America. Once started, it could not be stopped and before long we had Buzz Lightyear, Captain Jack Sparrow, Rapunzel and a dozen other figures. Even Mickey Mouse, in his role as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, made it into the collection.

Although Disney Infinity resembles Skylanders insofar as it has the collectible figures and a peripheral similar to the portal, called an infinity base, gameplay is quite different. Skylanders has a series of linear adventures culminating in a final battle against Kaos, the recurring villain in each of the Skylanders games. Disney Infinity does have something similar, but there is a different one for each game world or playset as it is referred to in the game. In order to access the content for each playset, you need a special figure that sits on the infinity base. These playset pieces only come in the starter set or in certain playset packs that include a couple of figures. Important to note, only characters from the playset game world are playable in it. So, Barbossa can be used in the Pirates of the Caribbean playset, but Lightning McQueen cannot.

However, there is a second way to play Disney Infinity. It has what is called “toybox” mode which is an interactive and customizable world in which the player can create the environment. You have a collection of build pieces such as landforms, buildings, vehicles and other items that you can add to your world. New items can acquired during gameplay. For fans of building games like Minecraft, I can see that this might be a real draw to the game. Personally, I find it a bit repetitive, but I haven’t really committed the time to figure out how to use this capability to its fullest. One cool aspect of the toybox, however, is that all characters can play in it. If you want to go multiplayer with characters from different franchises, this is the way to do it.

At this point, I would have to say I still prefer Skylanders over Disney Infinity. The worldbuilding game doesn’t do much for me and the playsets, while fun, require a significant buy-in beyond the initial cost of the game. Having said that, Disney is looking to up their game in the fall. Disney Infinity 2.0 is scheduled for release and will include several improvements to the game. What’s more, they will be mining their Marvel properties heavily for new characters. The Avengers playset will be included in the starter pack along with Thor, Ironman and Black Widow figures, with the remaining Avengers also being released as singles. Add to that, Spider-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy, as well as Maleficent and Brave characters, and the DI2 is looking to provide tough competition for Skylanders: Trap Team, also due for release later this year.


Way of the Wicked 20

This was an interesting session for me because in some ways they ran part of it backwards which surprisingly made it easier for me to run.

With Eirmanthus dead and no clock running (aside from the vague timeline of the good army on it's way to defeat Fire-Axe's horde at Daveryn), the PCs spent some time rezzing the dead, gearing up and preparing for the next stage of the adventure. With everyone refreshed and ready to go, they paid Chargammon a visit and present the head of his formal rival.

The dragon was delighted and decided to honor his agreement and go eat some delicious virginal princess in two weeks time. Not only that but he decided to punish his son Jeratheon, whom the PCs had rescued from the Eagles, by forcing him to serve the PCs loyally for 100 years. The PCs now have their own dragon!

They paid a visit to the baroness who provided them with a rough map of the Adarium, the password to bypass some of the magical defenses, and a hint on where to start looking for the King's private sanctum. The PCs used Earth Glide to search under the Adarium until they found a suspicious chamber which they were pretty sure was what they were looking for. They Dimension Doored into the chamber, looked around, got a good feel for it and then left.

They spent the next week making some last minute preparation and then teleported into the chamber just before they expected the dragon to begin his assault. Waiting for them was Brigit of the Brijidine. She was standing in a large pool of lava which made her difficult to reach as she lobbed lava at the PCs and lit up the room with Firestorm. She was tough but they managed to kill her.

A few minutes later a portal opened in the room and the king and his retinue came through. The PCs wasted no words and the battle began. They dropped the King into a Maze and then proceeded to smash his followers. A blasphemy spell paralyzed the paladins and dazed the cleric. The Inquisitor did not last long against the onslaught of Gorbatch the bloodrager. Within a few rounds, all were dead. The PCs waited around for a few rounds until the king reappeared and then he too was dead.

The PCs had a number of objectives here: Slay the King (done), slay Brigit (Done), and find the Libre Darian. There were also two hidden objectives: find the last piece of Helbrand, and something they missed. Knowing they still needed the Libre Darian they started to search the palace hoping that the dragon would keep all of the defenders busy. The lower floor was deserted and it wasn't until they explored the throne room that they found their first opponent - the brother of Ara Mathra. He blasted the Ninth Knot with some nifty light attacks but ultimately went down like a chump. Single opponents have no chance against the party. The final piece of Helbrand was recovered from a hollow compartment in the throne and the artifact was restored to full power!

Since they were disguised as the king and his retinue, the delegation of Iraen (barbarians from the western forest) went along with the PCs and tried to help them. The Princess's quarters on the third floor were largely destroyed. A massive battle had taken place here and there were bodies everywhere including, shockingly, Chargammon himself. The PCs were about to spread out when they were attacked by the Mithril Golem.
It went down fairly quickly and the PC went back to the King's chambers to restart their search their for the Libre Darian.

It was found in the King's private shrine.  The wizard perused it quickly and noted that Princess Belinda's mom is actually an Ancient Great Wyrm Silver Dragon.

As the PCs return to their base General Barca leads the Darian army against Fire Axe's horde at Daveryn. It is a slaughter as the traitorous general orders the army to attack the city's strongest point. When the Darian army finally breaks and the Fire-Axe leads his counter attack to eliminate what's left, General Barca broke his seal and Tiadora appeared. She slew any of the humans nearby and then teleported the General away.

And so ends Book4. At this point the forces of good have been defeated. The watch wall was broken and a massive army of monsters moves south plundering as it goes. The Mitran faith is shattered as the Vale of Valtaerna was desecrated. The Mitran military orders have been annihilated at the battle of Daveryn. The house of Darius is nearly at its end as the King is dead and the only one left is his sheltered 18 year old daughter.

Next up: Evil vs Evil.