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.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Marathons are Hard

So I ran my first marathon on Sunday. I finished with a time of 4 hours and 13 minutes which is respectable, however I was left feeling very disappointed. Perhaps foolishly, I went into the race expecting to kick ass even though I had never run that distance before.

Unlike shorter runs, the human body does not contain enough energy (glycogen) to complete the race. This means you either have to refuel during the race (because it stresses the stomach, I never bother in half-marathons) or slow down and burn fat which is much less efficient as a fuel source. On my many practice runs I would carry energy drink but the day of the Marathon I didn't bother with my fuel belt since I didn't want the extra weight. Mistake.

The Gatoraid on the course didn't sit well in my stomach. The energy candies I was sucking on I had never tested on my training runs so I'm not sure if that was what dried out my mouth or just general dehydration. In any case around the 24th kilometer things started to go down hill fast. I had a nasty cramp in my side and I was forced to alternate walking and running for the next 6 kilometers. By the 30th kilometer my body was completely out of fuel and the best I could do was a fast walk although even that made me nauseous.

It was a long final 12 kilometers as literally hundreds of people passed me. Had I been able to maintain the pace I kept for the first 24 kilometers I would have finished around 50th overall, instead I came in 640th. I did manage to run the last 100m although the effort made me debate checking into the first aid tent. I felt really, really awful. I lost over 5 lbs over the course of the race and it took the rest of the day to feel human again.

I now know I have to pay much more attention to my diet in the days leading up to the race, eat and drink enough before the race and get enough sugar, salt and water during the race. During the race I told myself that Marathons were just not for me but by the next day I decided to not let it get me down and I have signed up for another one. My plan next time is to run at a more conservative pace and actually try to run the entire thing and not smack "the wall". I can try to qualify for Boston again next year.