Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Iron Gods - The Choking Tower 4

We continue with our Iron Gods campaign - spoilers ahead.

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

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

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


Monday, November 14, 2016

Review: Numenéra Character Options 2

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

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


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Iron Gods - The Choking Tower 3

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

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

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

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


Sunday, November 06, 2016

Iron Gods - The Choking Tower 2

We continue with our Iron Gods campaign, expect spoilers.

The party realized that the next chamber contained some sort of nanite canisters, which were probably leaking and causing the mutations to the local plants and animals. They figured they could neutralize the nanites by activating the nanotech lab and programming it to neutralize the nanites. Using one of their precious batteries, they were able to briefly power the lab through the exposed conduit and neutralize the mutagenic nanites.

With nothing more to do in Iadenveigh for now, the party prepared to pursue their newest lead. The learned Augusto figured Master Xoud was the Technic League turncoat, Furkas Xoud. A little research led them to learn about the Choking Tower, a strange keep in a distant forest thought to be the last known residence of Xoud. After a week of travel through the Numerian hinterland, the party arrived at the Smokewood, where the Choking Tower was located. They battled a couple of hill giants and a warden robot, before encountering an unearthly creature called a star monarch. The giant butterfly-like creature, sacred to Desna worshippers (such as Nils), had been monitoring the dreams of the inhabitants of the tower for some time. There was only one dreaming creature active at the time, indicating that most of the inhabitants were probably undead or constructs, valuable information indeed.

The next morning they entered the tower. Initial resistance was light. A couple of riot suppression robots guarded the first floor. They proved fairly easy to defeat. In one room, they found an old spellbook belonging to Xoud. It had a collection of fairly common first and second level spells. The second level of the tower was made up of servants' quarters. They had clearly been abandoned years earlier, but a few traps and a trio of gearghosts remained. In one room, they found a small metal pod attached to a wall. They figured out it was a nanite cocoon. Upon removing it, they uncovered a small crack in the wall and a hidden stairwell behind it. More to come...


Friday, October 21, 2016

Iron Gods - The Choking Tower 1

We continue with our Iron Gods campaign - spoilers ahead.

Following their successful defeat of Hellion at Scrapwall, the party headed back to Torch before deciding what to do next. They had heard about another Iron God called Unity which Hellion sought to destroy. They also heard about Casandalee which Hellion thought of as a sister and who may have escaped from Unity with useful information on how to defeat him. Casandalee was believed to be an android and was last reported to be in what is now the town of Iadenveigh. Although Casandalee most likely died many decades ago, she was said to have a device called a neurocam which can record thoughts and might contain vital information about Unity.

The people of Iadenveigh were rather insular and particularly hostile to high technology. Still, the company was able to earn the cooperation of the town's self-appointed guardian, Iadrin "Redfang" Ashworth and Ivek Gunnett, a member of the town council. Gunnet had reason to believe a spy from the Technic League was in his town and requested that the party investigate. They uncovered clues that led them to a group of Varisian merchants. Rather than presenting their suspicions openly, the party decided to befriend the Varisians. After a couple of nights of interaction, they learned that one among the troupe, a dancer by the name of Ilarris Zeleshi, was a very recent addition. A dancer fit with the information they had and the party realized they had unmasked the spy. Zeleshi soon realized she'd been made and fled at the earliest opportunity. Nonetheless, Nils was able to follow her to a well that had been covered with a capstone. She entered the well, but not before setting off some sort of glyph. The party followed after her, but had to fight through a cloud of nanites.

At the bottom of the well, they found an opening that led into another part of the spaceship buried underground. They came upon a room with computer terminal that still had some power. After some experimentation, they were able to get a video playback of the room on the monitor. It showed a human leaning over the computer. He mentioned something about having charged the computer with a magic spell, but that he couldn't learn anything useful. The man seemed to be talking to an invisible companion whom he called Sahasho. The companion, in return, called the man Master Xoud. The video ended as the man exited the room. The party explored further and battled several deformed androids. They determined that the section of the ship they were in was an android foundry, although the damage it had sustained degraded the androids produced. They also caught up with Ilarris Zeleshi. She was wounded from the glyph and the nanites and they were able to subdue her without killing her. They tied her up for later retrieval.

Moving on, the party pushed its way through a collapsed and trapped section of the ship. Once across, they encountered a group of gearsmen who demanded the immediate surrender of Casandalee. Unsatisfied with the inability of the party to produce her, the gearsmen attacked. Fighting through the gearsmen, the party uncovers a nanotech lab. The lab showed evidence of recent activity including a section of floor tile that had been lifted, exposing what appeared to be a power conduit. The company is addressed by a disembodied voice, which they recognized as that of the invisible companion in the video playback they saw earlier. The creature, which they identified as an invisible stalker, asked if there was any news from Master Xoud and if they had come to release it from its service. When it became clear the party did not come to free it, the invisible stalker attacked. It proved a formidable foe, but the party prevailed. Casandalee may have been here at one time, but it appeared Master Xoud may have left with her remains some time ago. Deciding to move on, the party noticed another door with a sign saying "Canister Access" in Androffan and a bright orange sigil displayed prominently upon it. Until next time...


Monday, October 03, 2016

Iron Gods - Lords of Rust 3

We continue with our Iron Gods campaign - spoilers ahead.

The time had come for the final confrontation with Hellion. Nalakai came before the group who had decided to occupy the abandoned ratfolk warren and informed them that Hellion demanded their presence for the final initiation into the Lords of Rust. Smangtooth, Targus and Grendel answered the call, accompanied by two members of Redtooth's Raiders. The new members, a pair of ratfolk rogues named Kodo and Podo, were brothers who were highly skilled in robot fighting tactics. The five gathered at the arena and were led to an underground temple. Awaiting them were Nalakai's acolytes. They gathered before a large holographic projector which suddenly sprang to life revealing a hideous demonic figure - Hellion. The image spoke, ordering the group to kneel and prepare for the final test of faith. As the party knelt, Hellion cast an unholy blight upon them. Their agonized response revealed they were not evil and, therefore, not worthy followers. Hellion ordered Nalakai and the acolytes to attack. Though fanatical, Hellion's priests were no match for the group and were quickly dispatched. Nalakai joined Helskrag, Meyanda and Kulgara on the list of deceased Lords of Rust.

The party descended further into the structure beneath the arena. They battled other followers of Hellion, notably dark folk, orcs and another member of the Lords of Rust, the ettin, Draigs. She put up a respectable fight, but at this point, the company was not intimidated by the Lords and they slew her as ruthlessly as they had the others. After some exploration, the party realized they were exploring a huge, buried vehicle. They located another holographic projector which displayed the vehicle in its entirety, revealing it to be an enormous excavator. They also located the central processor and were able to install the inhibitor facet they had acquired earlier. This caused Hellion to terminate its connection with the central processor, but the damage was done. The AI was infected by the disruptive program, weakening it for the final battle to come.

The company exited the excavator and entered the caves around it. They came upon a cave with a pile of fairly fresh orc, ratfolk and human corpses with their torsos burst open. A crude painting of a red, four-armed demonic figure adorned the wall of the cave. Continuing on, they entered another chamber occupied by a figure appearing very much like the painting. The creature, a xill, introduced herself as Zagmaander, At last, the mysterious final member of the Lords of Rust was found. Zagmaander did not immediately attack. She indicated that she knew they were there to destroy Hellion and that she could assist them if they could help her. She was cursed to spend eternity in her cave unless someone could remove the curse. The party discussed it among themselves, but in fact, none of them had the ability to cast the remove curse spell. The xill reasoned that if she could not be freed, she would use them to implant more of her offspring, the same fate as that suffered by the corpses in the previous cave. Zagmaander swung her swords, fired her laser torch and even employed her paralyzing bite, but outnumbered 5-to-1, she didn't last long. She welcomed the release of death.

Finally, the company came upon their ultimate foe. At the far end of excavator, the giant bucket wheel protruded into a large cavern. Plenty of debris and partially-constructed robots lay about. A large scorpion-like robot rose up before them. Hellion had retreated to an arachnid robot chassis.

It opened fire on Smangtooth with its plasma beam as the ratfolk charged up to engage. Using its claws to fight the ratfolk and its plasma gun to strafe Smangtooth, Hellion fought hard. It concentrated its attacks on Smangtooth and being a divine creature with mythic power, it had many attacks. Smangtooth struck repeatedly with her chainsword, while Kodo and Podo teamed up, stabbing with their adamantine rapiers. Grendel and Targus followed up, surrounding the 'bot. Weakening quickly and still confused by the inhibitor facet, Hellion directed all its mythic attacks at Smangtooth. The orc barbarian was hideously battered, but still barely held on through sheer force of will as Podo drove home the killing blow. Unfortunately for Smangtooth, Hellion's robot chassis exploded. Everyone was caught in the blast, but for Smangtooth, it was too much. Her scorched body fell to the floor. Smangtooth was dead.

Good thing they still had that scroll of resurrection.


Monday, September 19, 2016

Iron Gods - Lords of Rust 2

We continue with our Iron Gods campaign, spoilers ahead.

After defeating the Smilers and rescuing Whiskifiss, the company paid a visit to the hangout of Redtooth's Raiders. Redtooth was greatly relieved to have her brother returned safe. The party learned that Redtooth and her gang were fighting a small-scale insurgency against the Lords of Rust. The party agreed to help and Redtooth told them she believed there were some explosives in a wreck of a small vessel in a fog-shrouded canyon at the far end of Scrapwall. She wanted to use the explosives to destroy the arena and the receiver array, two structures that were important to the Lords of Rust. The party agreed to retrieve the explosives.

To avoid the eyes of agents of the Lords, the party took an unwatched route guarded by a mutant manticore. They defeated the monster, but Smangtooth suffered a nasty radioactive bite resulting in a serious bout of radiation poisoning. Although she was weakened, Smangtooth and the rest of the party pushed on. The small ship was suffused in necromantic energy. The group fought shadows and skeletal champions before a final battle against a wraith. They acquired a number of useful items including three explosive charges and an inhibitor facet, a valuable weapon to use against artificial intelligences.

The party's exploits had finally attracted the attention of the Lords of Rust. Nalakai, a half-orc cleric of Hellion, came before them with an invitation from the Lords of Rust. Helskrag, the troll master of the arena, offered them a chance to join the gang in a trial by combat. They agreed to battle the following day only to find out they would be fighting Helskrag herself. Riding an enormous chariot pulled by two ogres, Helskrag charged toward them. As she closed on Smangtooth, she fired her autograpnel at Targus, embedding in his chest. Nils and Fact opened up on one of the ogres with laser rifle and alchemical bomb respectively. It proved too much for the ogre who staggered. The chariot crashed into Smangtooth, who was thrown twenty feet in the air, while Grendel moved up to engage in melee. A short, but bloody battle ensued. Nils concentrated his laser fire on the troll, knowing she could not regenerate the damage, while Smangtooth got to her feet and proceeded to dispatch the remaining ogre. Targus got mauled pretty good by Helskrag, but gave a good accounting of himself. In the end, they were battered, but victorious and offered membership in the Lords of Rust.

Fresh off their victory over Helskrag, the company was feeling confident. They had now slain two members of the Lords of Rust and were keen to collect another trophy. In accordance with the rules of the arena, they called out Kulgara, orc barbarian and leader of the gang.

She accepted the challenge and the next day, the group found themselves facing off in the arena against the orc leader and her elite ogrish bodyguards.The roar of the crowd and the rumbling of Kulgara's chainsaw was deafening as she started off by lobbing an inferno grenade. The group scattered to avoid the blast and the melee was on. Blood splattered everywhere as Kulgara's chainsword chewed into Smangtooth's flesh, but she gave as good as she got. Grendel battled two ogres, while Targus fought the other two. Fact and Nils concentrated their ranged attacks on Kulgara. Things looked bleak as Grendel went down from a massive strike by one of the ogres, but luck would smile upon the company at just the right time. A well-aimed blow from Smangtooth slipped past Kulgara's parry, crushing her skull and killing her instantly. Silence settled upon the crowd as Smangtooth picked up the chainsword, checked its heft, then slung it over her shoulder and walked away, leaving the orc warchief's ruin upon the field. Hellion awaits.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Is the Mythos becoming cool again?

I recently bought the first issue of the new Strange Aeons AP. It isn't the first Pathfinder AP to incorporate elements of the Cthulhu Mythos, but it is the first to use it as the central theme of the campaign. When I first became interested in tabletop rpgs back in the early 80s, Lovecraft's work was obscure and only the nerdiest among us knew of it, either through Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu game or the much sought after 1980 edition of the AD&D Deities & Demigods (which I have seen, but do not own). Sometime since then, Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos became widely known. Old Squidface himself eventually became this:
 Not exactly the epitome of cosmic horror Lovecraft intended.

Lately though, things seem to be turning around, although perhaps not for Cthulhu himself (besides, with Trump in the race, Cthulhu may actually be the lesser of two evils). The new star of the show seems to be Hastur; The Unspeakable One, Him Who Is Not To Be Named, The King in Yellow. I've always been a fan of Hastur, brooding in his cyclopean citadel of Carcosa on the shore of the Lake of Hali on a distant world in the Hyades star cluster, infiltrating the dreams of artists and poets with his dark visions.

The first mention of Hastur dates back to a short story by Ambrose Bierce called "Haïta the Shepherd" from 1893, although he was a benign god of shepherds back then. Hastur became much more menacing in Robert W. Chambers' 1895 anthology "The King in Yellow", a series of short stories in which a play of the same name appears in each story. The play is a source of great scandal, having the power to drive men mad. In this work, Hastur still wasn't fully developed and, in fact, the name seemed to refer more to a place than a creature. The next step in Hastur's evolution involved Lovecraft, who mentioned Hastur in his 1931 story "The Whisperer in Darkness". Although it was only a passing reference, it established Hastur as part of the Cthulhu Mythos. Finally, it was several stories by August Derleth, a contemporary of Lovecraft, which developed Hastur as he is thought of today, a Great Old One, spawn of Yog-Sothoth, half-brother of Cthulhu, the King in Yellow.

Along the shore the cloud waves break,
The twin suns sink behind the lake,
The shadows lengthen
In Carcosa.
Strange is the night where black stars rise,
And strange moons circle through the skies,
But stranger still is
Lost Carcosa.
Songs that the Hyades shall sing,
Where flap the tatters of the King,
Must die unheard in
Dim Carcosa.
Song of my soul, my voice is dead,
Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed
Shall dry and die in
Lost Carcosa.
—"Cassilda's Song" in The King in Yellow Act 1, Scene 2

My first inkling of Hastur as the new hotness was the first season of the HBO series "True Detective". Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey play Louisiana detectives investigating several murders of women and children. They uncover a cult of prominent local citizens engaged in child abuse and murder. Throughout the series, there are repeated mentions of the Yellow King and a place called Carcosa.

Which brings me back to Pathfinder. In the Golarion campaign setting, the Cthulhu Mythos is called the Dark Tapestry which exists in the Void beyond the stars. In the Iron Gods AP, we learn more about the Dominion of the Black, an organization of emissaries who represent or serve the Dark Tapestry in some fashion. It was a confrontation with the Dominion that caused the alien ship to crash in Numeria. Next year, Paizo will be releasing a new space fantasy game called Starfinder and early indications are that the Dominion of the Black will be a major antagonist. I am eagerly awaiting this game to see what role the Cthulhu Mythos will play. Given Hastur's somewhat more cosmic fantasy horror style and new popularity, I hope and expect the Yellow King will figure prominently.

Hastur! Hastur! Hastur!


Sunday, September 04, 2016

Iron Gods - Lords of Rust 1

We begin the next chapter in our Iron Gods campaign; Lords of Rust. As always, spoilers follow.

The plans of the android cleric had been thwarted and the forge of Torch had been relit, but the city council were concerned that the danger to the city had only been temporarily defeated. So they summoned the company once again to offer them another commission. The offered 8,000 gp to remove the threat to Torch permanently. The party countered with a proposal of 10,000 gp, which was accepted. As the party left to prepare for their journey to Scrapwall, the Brigh cleric Jorum Kyte pulled them aside and asked a favour. He mentioned a friend named Dinvaya Lanalei, another cleric of Brigh who had been hiding in Scrapwall after running afoul of the Technic League. He requested that they make contact with her and let her know that the Technic League has lost interest in her and that she can come to Torch. In exchange for this communication (or a report of her death), Jorum offered his lesser rod of extend as reward. The party accepted the offer. They were off the next day.

It took several days of travel to reach Scrapwall. On the way, the party came upon a ruined keep known as Aldronard's Grave, a common stopover for crusaders heading north to the Worldwound. Expecting to find crusaders, instead they found horrors. A gang of cannibalistic thugs known as the Smilers had set up camp in the ruin. Named for the horrific facial disfigurements they inflict upon themselves, the Smilers had captured several followers of Saranrae and had already butchered and eaten some of the prisoners. Disgusted by what they witnessed, the party slaughtered the Smilers and freed the remaining prisoners, a paladin and three acolytes. Fortunately, the prisoners had overheard their captors' conversations. They had learned that a new gang called the Lords of Rust had taken over in Scrapwall. The Smilers and many of the other gangs had allied themselves with this new group. They also found out that one of the members of the Lords of Rust had recently been killed while on a mission which has proven a major setback to the plans of the group. In an effort to find out what happened, the Lords of Rust have started pushing their members to leave Scrapwall and investigate. That is why the Smilers were occupying Aldronard's Grave.

The next day, the company arrived at the main gate of Scrapwall. It was controlled by a gang called the Steel Hawks. They peacefully negotiated their entry and made contact with the leader of the group, a human named Sevroth Slaid. After satisfying herself that the party were not crusaders looking to cause trouble or Technic League spies, Sevroth warmed to the group and saw them as a way to deal with a problem she had. The Lords of Rust had installed a Smiler to lead the Steel Hawks. They were ruffians to be sure, but the Steel Hawks weren't cannibals and they wanted no part of Smiler depravity. If the company could destroy the Smiler leader, a ranger named Birdfood and his orcish lieutenants, Sevroth could resume control of the Steel Hawks and aid the party in any way she could.

The company devised an elaborate plan to provide poisoned ale to Birdfood's orcs, but it proved difficult to manage and in the end, just decided to have Fact pose as a capo of the Smilers and drop off a keg of ale to the orcs in hope that they would be too inebriated to resist. After much hilarity as an android posing as a gangster convinced a bunch of orcs to accept the keg as a gift from Marrow, the head of the Smilers, the orcs accepted and as expected, got drunk. The next morning, the company showed up again with another keg. This time the orcs eagerly let them in without much scrutiny and were promptly massacred. Birdfood was also killed in the melee and the company earned some respect among the gangs, "scrap-worth" as it is referred to by the people of Scrapwall.

After making contact with Dinvaya Lanalei and passing along Jorum's message, the party decided to reveal to Sevroth that they were in Scrapwall to investigate the events that occurred in Torch and it seemed the Lords of Rust were involved. They asked how they could find the Lords of Rust. Sevroth suggested that if they earned enough scrap-worth, the Lords of Rust would seek them out. She went on to suggest taking out Marrow, the necromancer boss of the Smilers, as one way to earn some. So, without hesitation, they headed off to take out the cannibal Smilers once and for all. The front door, chained from the inside and covered by a mounted laser rifle proved one of the biggest challenges. Eventually Smangtooth, aided by Targus and an enlarge person spell from Augusto, was able to break through but not before several party members got scorched. The party then mowed through more than two dozen of Marrow's minions including Smiler gang members and various weird zombie-like creations, some living, some undead.

Finally, Marrow herself, was slain and a great deal of loot was recovered. The company also released a prisoner, a ratfolk named Whiskifiss. He said he was the brother of Redtooth, leader of Redtooth's Raiders, a ratfolk gang of some repute in Scrapwall. It seemed another useful ally had just been acquired.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Iron Gods - Fires of Creation 5

Continuing with our Iron Gods campaign, as always, there will be spoilers.

The next day, the company headed out to Garmen Ulreth's warehouse to confront him on his activities. They decided to use the direct approach, walking right up to the door and knocking. One of Ulreth's men answered the door, but refused to allow them in and told them to go away. Smangtooth took umbrage at that and proceeded to smash in the door. This led to a brief battle between the group and Ulreth and his men. Ulreth proved to be little challenge. The party then searched the building, uncovering the item they sought. It wasn't a magic item at all, rather it was a power relay, taking energy from a source somewhere inside Black Hill, amplifying it and transmitting it to a location somewhere off to the northeast. Further examination revealed the destination to be Scrapwall, a lawless region several days travel from Torch. Targus decided to shut down the power relay, assuming this would be necessary to restart the forge.

The company then headed back to the caves. With the coupling for the elevator repaired, they were able to activate it. Only one destination was available, the engineering deck, so that is where they went. The encountered a group of orcs and ratfolk who battled hard, but ultimately proved little threat to the group. Moving on, they came to a large domed chamber. A machine with a large holographic projection showing the habitat section of the ship shared the room with some bizarre statue of an upraised claw made of broken bits of technology. The statue has the appearance of a crudely-built altar to some unknown deity. As they examined the room, a hulking gargoyle entered. The gargoyle was covered in bits of broken technology. Despite its fearsome appearance, the gargoyle was defeated easily. The reactor core and a final confrontation awaited beyond a pair of immense black metal doors.

At the heart of the room was two huge cylinders pulsing with violet light. Hovering around them was a collector robot which moved down to attack, while the purple-haired woman fired some sort of crude laser pistol from a platform above. A tough battle followed. The purple-haired woman was revealed to be an android and a cleric. As she died, she called out to a god she called Hellion.

With the defeat of the android cleric, the company was able to disable the power transmitter that was feeding energy to the relay in Ulreth's warehouse. This re-engaged a fail-safe venting system that provided the fire to the forge. Torch was saved...for now.


Monday, August 22, 2016

Iron Gods - Fires of Creation 4

We proceed with the next chapter of our Iron Gods campaign, spoilers ahead.

It took some effort getting Khonnir Baine and Sanvil Trett back up to the surface, but eventually they managed. The Brigh cleric, Joram Kyte, examined Baine. With healing magic, he was able to cure Baine's wounds and temporarily recover his faculties, but some sort of infection continued to ravage his body and mind. The infection resisted Kyte's magic, suggesting it was some sort of nanite disease requiring a technological cure. Thinking back over their time in the ship, the party recalled that each of the passageways into the habitat dome had a small room with some sort of spray apparatus, which could have been a decontamination chamber.

The next day, with Joram's help, they got Khonnir into sufficiently good shape to make the journey back into the caves. They took him to the room which, they hoped, would heal him. Targus and Smangtooth were able to get the machine working and Khonnir was sprayed. They promptly returned to the surface to wait and see if the nanite infection was removed.

Meanwhile, Sanvil Trett had regained consciousness and was willing to talk in exchange for leniency. He indicated that he had once worked for the Technic League, but had fallen into disfavour and was hoping to find something here in Torch that he could present to his former employers to get him back in their good graces. He said before the company had come along and started bringing technological artifacts out of the caves, he had actually been more interested in Garmen Ulreth, a prominent local businessman and owner of Silverdisk Hall, a gambling house. Trett mentioned that he had been spying on Ulreth and overheard mention of a new business partner and the arrival of a valuable magic item which would be stored in his warehouse until a buyer could be arranged. Trett was fairly certain whatever Ulreth was up to had something to do with the extinguishing of the torch.

That night, as he slept in preparation for the next day and a confrontation with Garmen Ulreth, Targus had a vivid dream. Great battles fought on distant worlds, flying ships, titanic war machines, powerful magic and advanced technology, men in armour fighting horrific monsters and hatred of an ancient enemy known simply as the Dominion of the Black. Targus snapped awake and instinctively reached for his sword. The strange black blade he had carried for years, indeed, he could not clearly recall a time when he did not have it, nor could he recall where he got it. The sword now displayed a string of dimly-glowing red runes along the whole length of the blade. Targus could sense its consciousness at the edge of his own. Two had become one.


Iron Gods - Fires of Creation 3

Continuing with our Iron Gods campaign, as before, there are spoilers ahead.

The death of Edvin was a grievous blow to the party. They mourned his passing, but were gladdened that he had joined the Lady of Graves in the afterlife. Fact informed the group that he had personal obligations to attend to and would meet up with them at a later date. This combined with the loss of Edvin left the company dangerously short of men. So they turned to a woman...sort of. During their time in Torch, the party had met many of the locals including an orcish giantess named Smangtooth. Though orcs are generally viewed poorly in these parts, Smangtooth was more than capable of discouraging the local thugs and had kept out of trouble in town long enough to earn a grudging amount of acceptance. Her fighting prowess and surprising degree of expertise in technology made her highly valued by the company and she was invited to join.

Descending once again into the caves of Black Hill, the party proceeded to the one remaining door they had not yet entered. They came into a large room with a desk and some glowing panels and patches of mould. More importantly, a dried blood stain covered the floor near a set of double doors. After looting the room of everything of value, they followed the trail of blood. Eventually, the came to some sort of lab containing many rock and soil samples. Featured prominently in the room was a humming machine containing a flickering sphere of reddish-brown mud. As the company examined the device, a hideous creature emerged from the shadows.

Augusto, having some learning of such things, identified it as an alien horror from a distant world called a cerebric fungus. Luck smiled upon the company as they did not succumb to the weird mind-altering powers of the creature and they were able to kill it without loss of life.

With a sense that they were close to uncovering the fate of Khonnir Baine, the party pressed on. Following the blood trail, they eventually came upon a chamber that may have once served as a hospital of some sort, but had recently seen a great deal of violence as blood splatters could seen everywhere. A medical robot and a collector robot occupied the room. 

In violation of their standard operational protocols, the two robots attacked with great ferocity. By this point, the party had some experience fighting robots. They eventually succeeded in destroying the aggressive robots. With a moment to catch their breath, they could hear muffled screams. The noise came from a large metal pod in one end of the room. Opening it up, they found Khonnir Baine, alive, but badly wounded and clearly delirious. They administered to him as best they could, but he clearly needed more healing magic than they could provide. They decided to check out the remaining parts of the ship in case some useful medical technology might be found. During their exploration, they encountered a group of vegepygmies, the spawn of the unfortunate party of Brigh worshippers who made up the fourth expedition. They had apparently ran afoul of some russet mould, probably mutated by the weird fluids that oozed and pooled in parts of the ship.

They also came upon a small chamber which appeared to be a transport device of some sort. The device did not work, but after some study and a few nasty electrical shocks, Nils was able to remove a piece of equipment that needed to be repaired to return function to the device. He figured Baine could probably repair the part once he was returned to health.

Having found nothing that could cure Khonnir Baine of whatever it was that ailed him, the party headed out. As they passed through the large cavern where the skulks once lived, they were set upon by a group of men with swords and crossbows. The leader of the brigands was a hooded figure of some prowess with both sword and spell. The battle was hard-fought, and the struggle between Smangtooth and the bandit leader was particularly ferocious. In the end, the company was victorious, though all were bloodied. The bandit leader lay on the ground, bleeding, but not yet dead. Nils moved to attend to the villain in order to keep him alive for questioning and trial. Pulling back the hood, the bandit leader was revealed to be Sanvil Trett, a local technology merchant the party had met a few days before. He had offered his services if the party wished to identify or sell technological items they found. Hopefully, he would have some useful information to barter in exchange for his life.


Saturday, August 06, 2016

Iron Gods - Fires of Creation 2

We continue with our Iron Gods campaign. As always, there will be spoilers.

Upon returning to the town, Targus, Edvin, Grendal and Augusto met up with Nils, who had just arrived in Torch. At some point, Nils had joined up with a traveling companion, a strange fellow named Fact. He is an alchemist with elaborate tattoos over his body.

After healing and rest, the party was ready to return to the Black Hill caves. The leader of the skulks had mentioned a purple-haired woman who had passed through the caves a couple of weeks ago and had continued on through the gremlin warren. The party returned to the warren and found a large door made of glaucite, a strange alloy common to the ancient ruins throughout Numeria. Despite their best efforts, the party was unable to open the door. Returning to the skulk chamber, they were directed to another glaucite door which was easier to breach. Passing through, they entered a very different sort of passage. The walls were glaucite, rather than natural stone. They passed through a series of metal doors and small rooms and fought a brief battle with an automaton like the one Khonnir Baine brought back from his first expedition.

Eventually, the party came to a large chamber with natural stone walls, a sandy floor and a glaucite domed ceiling. It appeared to be some artificial structure made to appear natural. The sand floor revealed tracks which Nils was able to follow. As they crossed the open terrain, they were beset by a group of four-armed skeletons. The party handled the skeletons with little difficulty. Feeling confident, they continued on until they came to a cave on the other side of the chamber. There was illumination in the cave entrance, but they could not immediately locate the source. After some searching, they determined that there was a glaucite door in the back of the cave that was obscured by an illusionary wall. The door was slightly ajar and there was illumination inside. Continuing on, the party came to a room with a lot of equipment, flashing lights, buttons and switches. They spent a considerable amount of time attempting to understand everything they saw. Eventually they were able to make some sense of it and realized it was a control centre for the structure. With some further experimentation, they were able to power up the habitat. The ceiling of the large chamber lit up, revealing an alien sky. Also, many of the de-powered door locks became active. The party then continued on to another chamber and it was there that fate dealt a cruel blow. Inside the room was a juju zombie, a potent foe to be sure. Like the skeletons before, it had four arms and it wielded two swords. A long and deadly battle followed. The juju zombie proved very difficult to fight. It enjoyed immunity to many magical attacks and even weapons seemed to do less damage than one would expect. Men would fall, the party would retreat. They would advance to rescue fallen comrades, only to see others fall. Eventually, Augusto and Edvin were the only ones left standing and they came up with a desperate plan. They had lured the juju zombie out of the room and they planned to run past it and seal the door behind them, leaving the monster outside while they recovered inside. Augusto went first. The juju zombie swung one of its swords, but Augusto was able to dodge successfully. Edvin then ran through, hoping the juju zombie would be unable to recover in time to take a second attack. Sadly, the juju zombie was not caught off guard. It swung low and caught Edvin through the chest. He went down, bleeding badly. With great regret, Augusto was forced to slam the door shut and seal it tight, leaving Edvin to his fate.

The party locked themselves in for a few days. As various party members recovered, they were able to administer aid to the rest. When they were all once again in fighting shape, they emerged. Edvin's remains lay where he fell. They gathered his body and headed back to the caves. As they walked through the now illuminated habitat, they encountered the juju zombie once again along with the reformed skeletons they had fought earlier. The juju zombie was still damaged from the previous battle and they were better prepared. Vengeance was swift and merciless. The undead horrors were put to rest for good. With sadness, they headed back to Torch.


Monday, July 18, 2016

Iron Gods - Fires of Creation 1

We now continue the story of our Iron Gods campaign. As always, there will be spoilers.

The first stop for the party upon arriving in Torch was the town hall. There they met Dolga Freddert, an aged dwarven female and member of the town council. Councillor Freddert explained the current situation to them, including the reward for the return of Khonnir Baine. In addition to the 4000 gp reward, they would also include a scroll of resurrection if he was found alive as it was intended to bring Biane back if he was deceased. She also mentioned that another councillor, a cleric of Brigh named Jorum Kyte, would cast water breathing on the party before they headed down into the underwater cavern. Finally, she mentioned that Khonnier Baine's adopted daughter, Val, has made their tavern available for the use of any group seeking to rescue her father free of charge and that all the town's merchants would be offering a 20% discount on all purchases. With so many incentives, the party was eager to get started.

They headed off to the Foundry Tavern, owned by Khonnir and Val Baine. As they approached, they heard screams and a commotion coming from Baine's house behind the tavern. As they ran toward the noise, they saw a young woman busting through the front door with a clumsy, staggering construct in pursuit.

They charged forward. A well-placed grease spell from Augusto followed up by several devastating strikes from Targus and Grendal quickly rendered the construct into a heap of junk. The young woman, who was, of course, Val Baine, thanked them for her rescue and explained that the construct was the one her father brought back from his first expedition. It had not shown any ability to function until now.

The next day, the party headed for Weeping Pond. They had six hours of water breathing, so haste was the order of the day. They swam inside the cave for a short distance until coming upon an opening to the air. They were inside a larger cave complex within the Black Hill. As they were pulling themselves up onto a ledge, the party was set upon by a trio of fire beetles. They proved little more than a warmup for the group as they pressed on. A cave full of stalactites and stalagmites lay before them and at times, they were forced to squeeze through. They encountered the deceased remains of a female half-orc in the cave, most likely a member of a previous expedition. Continuing on, they came out into a larger cavern. At one end, they spotted what appeared to be a patch of cultivated mushrooms and other fungi. As they approached, a frog-like humanoid stepped out of the shadows. It opened its large eyes, which glowed with an intense light. Targus, Grendal and Edvin were blinded by the flash, only Augusto managed to avert his eyes. With three party members blind, the battle against the creature, which they later determined was a blindheim, proved difficult. The creature was tough and the melee fighters had difficulty hitting it. Augusto's spells and Edvin's negative energy channeling eventually won the day, but Targus was badly mauled and Grendal was down. Happily, the blindness wore off after about an hour and Edvin was able to heal up the fighters enough to continue. The aftermath of the battle also revealed another corpse submerged in the water. The party was able to loot it for some gold, a silver unholy symbol of Zyphus and two healing potions.

With a few hours left before their water breathing spells expired, the party continued on. Eventually, they came upon a large chamber with several huts constructed of fibrous fungal material and bits of technology. Approaching slowly and without weapons drawn, they were able to make peaceful contact with the inhabitants, a small band of skulks. After some negotiation with the leader, they made a pact. In exchange for chasing off a group of nearby gremlins, the skulks would give the party some technological treasures they had accumulated. The gremlins proved to be rather weak, but their numerous traps were not. Grendal and Targus endured several injuries as they pushed their way through the gremlin warrens until they finally encountered the leader. Rather than face certain doom, the gremlin chief used his dimension door ability to escape and the party had fulfilled their side of the bargain. They collected their reward (some silverdisks and five brown access cards) and returned to the surface for rest and recovery.


Sunday, July 17, 2016

Iron Gods - And so it begins...

Numeria, one of the most mysterious lands in all of Golarion, source of the world's adamantium, a land known for its strange ruins and weird science. It is here that the Iron Gods campaign takes place. Please note that what follows will contain [major spoilers] for the Iron Gods Adventure Path.

A stout band of brothers, Edvin, a scholarly cleric of Pharasma; Targus, a magus with a blade of mysterious provenance; Augusto, a wizard with a passion for life's pleasures; Grendal, a ranger with a hatred of the Technic League and their mechanical servants; and Nils, an inquisitor of Desna with a liberator's zeal, having heard that the town of Torch is desperate for adventurers, decide to offer their services. Nils is briefly delayed by matters of a personal nature, so the others head off to Torch, intending to meet up with their companion a few days later. Targus has some history with the town, having lived there for awhile and gotten to know several prominent citizens, including a town councillor named Khonnir Baine, a man figuring prominently in Torch's current predicament.

Torch is named for its most prominent feature and the source of most of its wealth, an ancient and mysterious source of fire hot enough to melt adamantium. Most of the time, the intense violet flame is the size of a large bonfire and it is at these times that smiths from many lands gather for the opportunity to forge their adamantium weapons and armour. Occasionally, the earth begins to rumble and shake. The locals know that they must vacate at such times, for the fire becomes a massive inferno that blasts right through the top of the mountain, before dying down once again. Unfortunately for the town, the fire that sustains it has recently been extinguished. Khonnir Baine took it upon himself to solve the mystery. He soon discovered recent tracks along the banks of the Weeping Pond, a contaminated pool at the base of Black Hill. Further exploration revealed an underwater cave. Since then, five expeditions have entered the cave including two led by Baine himself. Baine's first expedition was the only one to successfully return. He reported seeing walls of solid metal construction and brought back a broken automaton of some sort. He did not return from his second expedition and the town council is desperate to have him returned, dead or alive. A reward of 4000 gp for his recovery is offered. Luckily for Torch and its citizens, the right men for the job have just arrived.


Monday, May 23, 2016

Savage Tide 11 & 12 The LIghtless Depths

The Quick Version since I have fallen behind.

After the battle of Farshore the leadership question of the colony needed to be settled. The Mayornenshi faction spread rumors connecting Lavinia to her her undead brother and a family curse. The PCs chose to stay out of the politics and Lord Manderlay won the election easily.

One of his first tasks was to clear the trade route back to the mainland and asked the PC to remove a Dragon Turtle that was known to live on the north end of the island. The PCs, spotting a cave while trying to lure the dragon out, went to investigate. They stumbled upon a settlement of diseased troglodytes who were dispatched easily. The troglodytes were dispatched with ease and two captives were found: a feeble minded human in rags and a healthy troglodyte. The human was restored and he said we was a missionary from Garund. He was spreading the word of Sarenrae and was attacked by strange men with animated skins on their back. Next thing he knew he was here.

The troglodyte was a member of the tribe but never received the blessing of their god (the disease). He began to suspect that something was off an was imprisoned when he spoke out. He told the PCs of the Shadow Pearls. The tribe were the middle men between the Lords of Dread below and the Crimson Fleet. Uzeye recommended the they travel down and speak with the Father who could tell them more.

Along the way The PCs did battle with a Roper and visited the Mongrel settlement of Bargas. There they were shown a petrified fish that was actually an Aboleth that had dried out and was in "Long Dreaming" a state of petrified hibernation. The was likely due to the Cerulean Curtain, a blue ghostly wall that forced sea water out of the area.

The PCs continued their trip down into the earth under the island. They finally reached the temple partially willed with slimy, scummy water and spoke with the Father. The ghostly troglodyte told them of the war of old - a conflict between the Olman civilization above and the Aboleth below. After many honorific sacrifices Tlaloc, the reptilian god of Rain, intervened and created the Tear of Tlaloc. This was dropped into the Aboleth city of Golismorga forcing the water out and putting most of the Aboleth into a state of hibernation.

After many years the aquatic race of Kopru moved in and tried to learn the Aboleth's secrets. An old temple in the city was dedicated to an Elder Evil. Tapping into the Black Blood of the Earth they managed to master a process of finishing Shadow Pearls - weapons of mass insanity and chaos. The Father suggested that if they wished to disrupt the process the should first destroy the artifact Tlalocs Tear which will cause the Kopru to panic as they rush to remove to finish off their ancient enemies the Aboleth leaving the temple relatively undefended.

The PCs continued on and finally found the city of Golismorga. The city of organic horrors filled an enormous cavern and greeted the PCs with its alien strangeness. A scouting mission found the location of Tlaloc's Tear and that it was guarded by an alien entity known as a Brain Collector.
The PCs opened with a Feeblemind spell which was actually successful.  This made the fight much easier even with the local environment so hostile to mortal life. An adamantine dagger eventually destroyed the artifact - its presence in such an evil alien environment for a millennia had weakened the artifact to a point where it could be destroyed.

As Tlaloc's Tear crumbled to dust, the earth began to rumble as the vast caverns under the city began to fill with water. The PCs rushed to the the temple and were assaulted by the Kopru Behemoths. One managed to Dominate Isis. Only a quick Hold Person by Trevain prevented Isis from killing most of the party until the controlling Kopru could be slain.

The PCs advanced on the temple and found a way in. They first battled a Kopru Cleric of Demogorgon before battling a Bilewretch of Holashner, a greater minion of an Elder Evil. With these dead, the production line for Shadow Pearls was disrupted. The PCs grabbed what treasure they could and teleported out.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

New Life for West End Games

Back in the late '80s and early '90s, West End Games (WEG) was a major player in the tabletop rpg industry. Best known for the classic Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game, WEG also held licenses at various times for Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones, Xena: Warrior Princess and Men in Black. It also developed classic games such as Paranoia and TORG. Unfortunately, even the Star Wars license couldn't sustain the company, which declared bankruptcy in 1998. In 2003, WEG, now stripped of all its licenses, was purchased by Eric Gibson, who hoped to develop its game mechanic, which became known as the d6 System. Gibson's company published the core rules as three books, d6 Space, d6 Fantasy and d6 Adventure as well as announcing the release of Bill Coffin's Septimus campaign world. However, it could not repeat WEG's past success. In 2008, Gibson dissolved the company, released the d6 system and Septimus as OGL and sold off its remaining IPs. Gibson retained nothing except rights to the name. Apparently, the name still has some value, however, because Stewart Wieck, one of the original designers of Vampire: The Masquerade and other White Wolf titles has just announced that he has acquired the rights to WEG. The first plan for WEG is to make all the d6 products and Septimus, which are currently available for free download, available for print-on-demand. Wieck has also set up a Kickstarter to bring back Web and Starship, an '80s era boardgame published by WEG.

I once had a great deal of fondness for WEG and still have a sizeable collection of original SW:TRG books as well as all the free d6 content. Although I've long since moved on to other games, that nostalgia will probably entice me to keep an eye on new WEG developments.


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Ultimate Intrigue - Early thoughts

First and foremost, as the title suggests, this book is highly focused towards an intrigue style adventure/campaign. It works best in at low levels or in a low magic environment. If you are like me and looking for cool things to inject into a standard campaign you will be somewhat disappointed. This book is full of options but I found most of them to be very niche.

The Vigilante is pretty cool but I can't see myself playing one which is a bit of a shame. This could be one of those classes, like the Oracle, that I grow to appreciate over time but currently I don't see enough to excite me. The Avenger (Fighter) type Vigilante has great social options, and can do pretty good damage but I'm not sure they have enough defensive options. Overall I think the Avenger is decent and much more useful compared to the Stalker.

The Stalker (Rogue) seems to be built around the element of surprise. The problem with Pathfinder is that it tends not to support "one hit kill" style that the stalker seems to be built around. The stalker is devastating on the first round but then find its usefulness drop off severely.  I suppose you could pull the video game stunt of running away for 2 minutes until everything resets but no GM I know would allow you to get away with something so gamey.

Most of the new feats are geared towards an intrigue game although there are a few notable exceptions. Starry Grace brings me one step closer to finally be able to run a PC built around effectively using Star Knives.

Most of the Archetypes are niche as well. Many of the trades are for Intrigue options which won't be so useful in a standard game so form that point of view most of the archetypes are downgrades. Once I get the module for HeroLab I'll do more than throw some numbers together on paper but from a quick and dirty standpoint, many were very lackluster from a combat standpoint.

Overall the book contains lots of creative ideas and options but most are focused on an Intrigue style game which could be a lot of fun but we tend to play a more direct style.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Savage Tides 10 - Tides of Dread

With 30 days until the Crimson Fleet arrives, the PCs began to improve the colony itself. The harbor was booby trapped and defensive structures were built. The Wall was strengthened and the militia expanded and better trained. Scouts maintained a vigilant watch to ensure the colony would have sufficient warning before the Fleets arrival.

The PCs expected the Pirates to attempt a direct assault on the harbor and so had the Jade Ravens guarding the rear and side gates.

The Crimson Fleet arrived almost exactly on schedule . Everyone had time to take their positions before the battle began. Bytor and McDougal assumed command of a Trebuchet on each side of the Harbor opening. As the Fleet approached, one of the 6 ships split off and began to sail to the south around the island as the other five continued forward and began to exchange siege weapon fire with the colony.

The outer two Trebuchets were taken out by Fireballs originating from one of the pirate ships. Bytor abandoned his position to join with his team mates on the beach but McDougal opted to stay. As the Pirates began disembarking into longboats for the assault, McDougal prepared his spell that would catch many of them in a whirlpool. The tactic succeeded and many of the pirates caught in the whirl pool drowned while the rest were trapped outside of the harbor entrance.

More siege fire was exchanged but before long the ammunition was expended and a standoff resulted. Four Flesh golems rose out of the surf and began dismantling the beach defenses. Meanwhile, McDougal sneaked aboard the pirate ship containing the Fireball caster. He was quickly confronted by 5 human looking pirates but began to question things when they attacked him with slam attacks and bites. The "human" pirate wizard targeted him with more fire spells and McDougal was forced to withdraw. Realizing that the whirlpool was not going away anytime soon, the main pirate landing group rowed off to another landing point.

As he arrived on the beach he assisted the rest of the party in taking out the golem trash leaving the harbor once again secure.

A signal was sent from the side gate and the PCs rushed over to find the Jade Raven locked in combat with 40+ pirates.  Between the two groups of heroes the pirates didn't last long however more foes entered the battle. Four Vrocks flew over head and began to dance. Two rounds passed with the PCs feeling rather impotent having no effective ranged attack modes (Trevain the Wizard was MIA), fortunately the Jade Raven proved they are not completely useless and downed one of the Vrocks. Furious that their dance was interrupted they charged the two groups of PCs. Much Carnage was unleashed but eventually the heroes stood triumphant.

Another winged humanoid flew over the village and landed near the Mayornenshi and Vanderboren manors. The heroes were at first hesitant to investigate knowing that the main body of pirates had yet to arrive but after hearing screams, decided to help.

The Vanderboren manor's door had been ripped from its hinges and one of the servants lay unconscious in the door way. Moving inside quickly they found Lavinia squared off with some demonic creature. The PCs quickly realized that this thing was once Lavinia's brother Vanthus.

Vanthus tried to compel the PCs to leave but they managed to throw off the Suggestion and the battle began. Vanthus was pretty nasty but against 4 PCs and Lady Lavinia he didn't have a chance. Just before his death he pulled a fist sized Black Pearl from his pocket, smeared his blood on it and then wished the PCs to Hell as he dropped the floor.

All of the PCs dove for it and all missed it save for Isis who had to spend a Hero Point to reroll his reflex save to catch it. Vanthus tried to Sunder the Pearl but Isis was able to protect it. McDougal stabbed Vanthus and finished him off.

At this point the remaining pirates called for a retreat and in their haste left two of the ships behind including the ship Vanthus was captaining, the Brine Harlot.

The colony of Farhsore survived relatively intact. Only a few building were damaged by siege weapons and only a dozen or so colonists lost their lives - mainly Trebuchet crews.

With the colony defended from the pirates, Farshore's future must now be decided.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Savage Tide 9 - Tides of Dread

I've been distracted so this post is a bit late but here goes:

The PCs arrived at long last in Farshore only to find it aflame. The natives dropped everyone off on the beach and then paddled away quickly not wanting to get involved. The description of the scene laid out several encounters that largely involved pirates running amuck killing colonists and burning buildings. Isis first rescued Tilde Swenten from a burning building. Next, the colony's alchemist, Hervik Aldwattle was laying on the beach bleeding out so Bytor healed him up.

A melee broke out at the burning church between several pirates and the PCs but the pirates went down pretty easily. The pirate leader was standing by the well killing anyone who came near and preventing the colonists from forming a bucket brigade to extinguish the fires. He hit pretty hard but Slipknot Pete died just like the other pirates and the PCs got the flames extinguished.

As the smoke cleared, Lavinia, the Jade Ravens and Lord Manthalay Mayornenshi. Lord Manthaly is Avner's uncle and wasn't initially happy to see him. Manthalay provided leadership to the colony in the Vanderboren's absence and is less than happy at Lavinia's attempts to take back control. The Jade raven's were unhappy with the way Lavinia introduced the PCs to the colony as "saviours of the colony" since they had battled the pirates as well.

One of the pirates had been captured alive and after being charmed was interrogated. He explained that the pirates were third party contractors for the Crimson fleet and mostly they collected exotic animals and shipped them back to civilization for sale. They had been told to scout the colony for a coming attack by the Crimson Fleet but seeing it so poorly defended, Pete got greedy and attacked.

Lefty the pirate warned everyone not to be around when the pirates arrived which should be in about 60 days. After some discussions the decision was made to try and defend the colony. A long list of potential improvements was drawn up and the PCs decided that the first order of business was to recover their ship - the Sea Wyvern. Lavinia made the Blue Nixie and the colony's carpenter available but first they would need more pitch. This tarry substance was normally acquired from the natives but lately it had been unavailable.  The PCs decided to visit the natives to aquire more tar and ask for their assistance in the coming battle as well.

The smaller villages refused to help unless the village of Tanaroa assisted as well. Tanaroa was the largest of the native settlements and was located at the great wall. The prestige of guarding the wall gave the village leadership in the loose native confederacy.

Upon arriving in Tanaroa, the PCs found a religious ceremony underway. The native were chanting around a burning effigy of a bat-like creature. The effigy came to life, threatened the village if the stolen idol was not returned. To back-up its threat, a far off volcano began to erupt. The PCs immediately began to wonder if the strange idol they found on their journey to the Isle of Dread might be the stolen idol in question. The natives confirmed their suspicion and after appeasing the natives suspicions that the PCs were the thieves, the villagers offered to provide guides to the Temple of Zotzilaha.

Upon entering the Temple, the Avatar of Zotzilaha immediately attacked them. Iowa the Bard displayed the idol to the Avatar and it ceased to attack them. The avatar opened a secret chamber and commanded the PCs to place the idol within. For returning the stolen idol, it offered each PC a treasure from the room. The avatar spotted a rolled up leather strip and commanded the PCs to take the strip and its contents with them as it was not a sanctified offering to Zotzilaha. Wrapped in the strip was a pointy tooth - a fang. Trevain suspected that the magic item was in fact an artifact. They took it with them and left.

With the villagers appeased, the PCs proceeded to the tar pits. The villagers warned them that a large dinosaur had taken up residence in the area and was preventing anyone or anything from collecting tar. At the Pits they found a large Tyrannosaurus Rex  chasing a bunch of small creatures that looked like a cross between Rocket Racoon and the lemurs from Madagascar - the Phanaton.

Trevain charmed the enormous beast thinking it would be perfect to use to defend the colony from pirates. The problem was they had no way to control it. No one had any skill at handling animals and no one had any magic for the job. After spending a great deal of time trying to come up with a solution they ended up killing it.

The Phanaton were thrilled that the tar pits were once again clear of large threats and offered to take the PC back to their village for a feast. The PCs knowing a plot hook when they hear one accepted and journeyed with the small creatures. Along the way to their Ewok tree house, they were ambushed by strange creatures called Skinwalkers that had not been seen in this part of the island in many years. The remaining Phanaton introduced the PCs to their tribe and told the PCs a tale of the Rakastas, the sister race of the Skinwalkers.
The Rakastas were a peaceful race of jaguarfolk and battled their corrupted brethren. The Skinwalkers continued to grow in power and eventually drove the Rakastas to extinction. The Phanaton were pretty sure that the Rakastas had created a weapon depot to battle their evil cousins but never had the chance to use it. Perhaps the PCs would be interested in it.

The PCs found the temple and it was largely unguarded. Only a Coatl remained, it she only long enough to tell the tale of the Rakastas and encouraged the PCs to take the treasures of the now vanquished Rakastas and use them to fight evil.

The PCs took the choicest weapons for themselves and then arranged with the colony for the rest to be transported back as well as confirmed that there was now enough pitch available to repair their ship.

The Blue Nixie set for towards the wreck of the Sea Wyvern. She carefully maneuvered through the reefs until she pulled up close to the Sea Wyvern, still trapped on the reef. A battle with an aquatic creature known as a Kopru broke out but the PCs were able to slay it and claim its treasure - a Headband of Wisdom +4, that it was creating.

A week of hard work and the Sea Wyvern was seaworthy again. The two ships set sail and returned to Farshore with 4 weeks remaining until the pirates are due to arrive.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Ranking the Paizo Pahtfinder Adventure Paths (update 2016)

Rise of the Runelords, Curse of the Crimson Throne, Second Darkness, Legacy of Fire, Council of Thieves, Kingmaker, Serpent's Skull, Carrion Crown, Jade Regent, Skull and Shackles, Shattered Star, Reign of Winter, Wrath of the Righteous, Mummy's Mask, Iron Gods, Giant Slayer, Hell's Rebels

I received a request to update my ranking of my favorite Paizo Adventure Paths and since I have lots of time on my hands let's do this. Criteria is the same as last time: fun to play,  role playing, interesting combat encounters, cool themes, and great story. This is just my opinion and I'll admit to my biases: a dislike of long dungeons, and that high level pathfinder (14+) does not play well. So with that out of the way, here we go.

1. Hell's Rebels. It is like someone gave Paizo a list of my likes and dislikes and they ended up with a near perfect adventure path. My last post went over why I like it so much so I won't repeat it here.

2. Curse of the Crimson Throne. Still awesome but parts 4 and 5 just don't fit in well with the rest. I still think this would best if it were expanded into a full multi-year expanding campaign. We would just blaze through this one too fast to give it proper justice.

3. Kingmaker. The adventure path where you can pretty much do what you want. This one was a big favorite in my group and everyone had tons of fun with it. The glue between the various parts is weak but in this situation it is not a deal killer. It falls a bit into Star Trekiness later on when you wonder why the ship captain and bridge crew, err I mean King and his senior advisors, are wandering around caves killing trolls when they should be running the kingdom and leaving this stuff to minions.

4. Rise of the Runelords (Anniversary Edition). This one is great because they got to go back and fix the minor flaws from the first time around. This one has some great role-play elements, fun combats and great back story that is slowly unveiled over the first few parts. In the last third, things start to go down hill. The dungeon in part 5 is both rather pointless and is so long. Part 6 isn't too bad but we usually have ADD by this point in the campaign and the way its written is very long and drawn out. We played a shorted version of it.

5. Wrath of the Righteous. We'll ignore the mythic rules for a moment and look at the AP itself. It has a very interesting cast of NPCs (too many actually), a great plot, lots of epic action and tons of cool encounters. If your players don't try and break the game with Mythic rules it might be workable but most groups will turn into vortexes of mythic destruction and all encounters will be won or lost in the first 2 or 3 rounds. Mythic is very swingy. I do love those re-rolls though. I found Part 6 to be weak but that's pretty common but otherwise if you can work around the Mythic rules problem this is a great AP.

6. Iron Gods. I've never had a problem with Robots in my D&D since it has been an element of the  since Blackmoor but many others do. I really like the first two and the last 2 parts of this AP but I found the middle two a bit weak. I think this would be a great AP for all those weird PCs builds in your stable. I love the chainsaw greatswords, the laser blasters, the nanobot healing kits. Sign me up!

7. Reign of Winter. This AP wasn't really what I was expecting and it won me over as I read through it. This is one of the rare APs that seemed to get stronger as it went along instead of the other way around. Part 5 is down right weird and yet is rather appealing. Who hasn't wondered how high level PCs would do against WW1 troops and tanks? The thing to keep in mind is that this AP is largely about travel. You will go to weird new places and kill lots of strange monsters. In a good way. The first part of this AP is deadly if you play with environmental rules.

8. Giant Slayers. This one benefited from low expectations on my part. This AP includes some unique encounter locations, great role-playing opportunities and would work surprisingly well with a stealth oriented group. I particularly like the transition from part 5 to part 6. Enchanter type PCs are no doubt rubbing their hands together in glee at the though of a giant oriented AP but don't worry, Paizo doesn't let their toys work on the bosses.

9. Shattered Star. I am not a fan a huge dungeons but if you are, I'm sure you would rate this one higher. Sure the dungeons have very different themes, contain some interesting role playing options but over all it just didn't appeal to me. There is usually at least one part in each AP that is "WOW" and this one really didn't have one. It was just consistently good.

10. Mummy's Mask. I had high hopes for this one and the first couple parts work really well. However the whole tomb crawling theme works best at low to mid levels. I wanted this one to feel like Indiana Jones or the Mummy and it does a decent job early on but not so much later.  The railroad on this one feels stronger than most and I can easily see a group running off the rails. The one might be a good candidate for ending it early.

11. Carrion Crown. Speaking of "Ending it early"... This one grew on me the more times I read it. The horror themes were fun and I thought the first two parts were quite unique and entertaining (and difficult). Part three was a bit like "Clue" before ending as a zombie movie. I cut this campaign off here because I didn't really care for the second half. Part 4 tries very hard to be Lovecraftian. Plot wise Part 5 makes no sense, and although Part 6 had one super awesome encounter (OK maybe 2) most of the book was rather blah and the BBEG was a pushover.

12.  Skull and Shackles. I really wanted to love this one but after Part 1 I found it just fell flat. A DM who loved the material and really put some life into this AP could probably make it great but it definitely needs some love as most of it just seemed rather blah and generic.

13. Legacy of Fire. Pugwumpies. That word still sends shivers down my spine. May I never encounter them again. This one had a great theme, lots of fun in the first two parts but kind of lost its way in the middle. Part three was a blatant railroad and then both Parts 4 and 5 involve being trapped in either a pocket dimension or another plane of existence. A bit repetitive and by the time we finished part 5 we were still walking around in same gear we had in part 3.

14. Jade Regent. Don't get me wrong I liked the Asian themes but this AP just didn't work for me. Chapters written by James Jacobs are generally great and Part 1s are generally great but I just didn't care for the first part of Jade Regent. The caravan rules are broken. I didn't love the NPCs (even though some are returning from earlier APs), and I didn't love the dungeon. Part 2 didn't really work for me either. I had to read it three times to understand the flow of events. I liked the traveling in Part 3. Its rare that the environment plays such a central role in the game. Part 4 started out strong but I didn't like the dungeon that it led to. I heard someone replaced it with the Jade Ruby Tournament which sounds like fun. I love the idea behind Part 5. Rally different factions into rebellion against the Jade Regent but I was not thrilled with its execution. It could easily be expanded and made more awesome.

15. Council of Thieves. They tried to fix the problems of Curse of the Crimson Throne and failed miserably. The first part was largely forgettable as all of the NPCs you meet are then ignored for the rest of the AP. The back story is handed out in bits of pieces but never really comes together. Even after you killed the BBEG you are wondering who the guy was. The best element of this AP was Part 2. It actually comes with a script and the PCs can act out the murder play. For a theatrically inclined group it would be amazing, but for a group of dice rollers not so much.

16. Second Darkness. This one isn't as bad as its reputation suggests. Parts 1 and 2 are actually really good. Part 3 is fun but the elves come across as very unlikable. Part 4 is unique and part 6 was fun with lots of tough boss fights. The big reason people love to hate this AP is part 5 which is a total disaster and needs a complete rewrite. One interesting fix for this AP is to drop parts 1 and 2 (which didn't really fit with the rest of the AP) and make the PCs Lantern Bearers.

17. Serpents Skull. Part One is one of the stronger adventures out there and darn near perfect (but very hard if played as written). Part 2 is fun if you play up the different faction rivalries. Part 3 is a big mess like Part 5 of Second Darkness. There were so many things they could have done with Saventh-Yi and what we got was WoW style quests to kill 60 Mobs which will pacify a sector of the city. Thanks. Part 4 was only OK except for the Gorilla King which I thought was a excellent encounter. Parts 5 and 6 mainly involved trips down into the Darklands to kill snakemen. Yawn. I still like the BBEG of this campaign but I'm worried that he'd get over whelmed by action economy. Needs minions.

And there you have it! It is largely the same list as last time. I made a few minor changes but aside from including the new APs it is pretty similar.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Hell's Rebels (may contain some small spoilers)

Well Paizo has finally done it. Curse of the Crimson Throne has long been my favorite Adventure Path mainly on the strength of the first three (mainly the first two) adventures. It has all the components of what I think makes a great Adventure Path.

Let's go over those:
1. A simple but deep story. This one is hard to pull off. The players should get a sense of the story early on and it should stay consistent through the AP. It is nice if the BBEG or Organization is revealed fairly early so the PCs get a sense of who they are up against. Each part of the AP should be moving forward the PCs goals against their antagonist.

2. A solid cast of recurring NPCs. This is an area that I always struggle with. It is great if the DM can really bring the NPCs to life. The PCs should form relationships with them, liking some and not others but most importantly remembering who they are, using them as resources later on.

3. A big variety of encounter types. I'm not  a fan of long dungeons. If the dungeons or encounter location doesn't fit on a standard play mat it is probably too big. That's not to say I don't ever like exceptions but that is my rule. The occasional big dungeon is a nice change of pace but I prefer seeing only one or so per AP.

It is not a secret that Paizo staff read the message board and I'm sure they spend extra time carefully reading the threads about what AP are people's favorites and why. Kingmaker, Runelords and Crimson Throne are almost always the top choices. I can see elements of Runelords in other APs, but they have not really tried to do another Kingmaker style Adventure Path. With Crimson throne the major critique was that people didn't like the McGuffin hunt in parts 4 and 5 and would have prefered to stay in the city. Taking this to heart, with the release of the Pathfinder Role Playing Game they launched Council of Thieves Adventure Path at the same time. This AP takes part entirely within or nearby the City of Westcrown.

The problem is that Council of Thieves is a mess and largely fails miserably to capture the magic of CotCT. With CoT we made the mistake of playing the AP as it was being released. There were huge production delays and so our DM was left scrambling to fill in two months of content while we waited for the next book. Never again.

Even without the delays, CoT breaks lots of my rules. The story line is a mess. We never really understood why were were doing things and simply followed the obvious plot points to move on to the next location. The villain(s) are not at all obvious until the very end and even then we were hoping for some big reveal and didn't get it. The recurring NPCs get ignored after the first lackluster chapter and the only part that really stands out as cool and interesting is the Opera in Book 2.

With Hell's Rebel's, Paizo has taken a good look at their previous attempts to make the ultimate in Urban adventures and learned from their errors.

1. It is pretty obvious from even the players guide what this adventure path is all about. Barzillai Thrune is the new Mayor of Kintargo, and is a Tyrant who must be removed. Most of the things the PCs do in this book are dedicated towards the ultimate goal of freeing the city from Thrune's grasp. Even the side quests often progress the main plot or provide plot hooks for later adventures. The whole thing fits together nicely and feels like 6 pieces of a whole instead of a series of 6 loosely connected adventures.

2. NPCs are introduced slowly over the course of the AP and most do a pretty good job of being memorable. Later volumes give the DM ideas about how to incorporate early NPCs into later adventures.

3. Hell's Rebel's has some really memorable encounters. There lots of battles. These are as varied and interesting as any other AP in lots of different environments - underwater, in sewers, dwarven castles, plus lots of cityscapes. It is also the wide variety of non combat encounters that really stand out. There is a cool negotiation scene, a dinner party, a grande ball and encounters where stealth/deception are the best way to go.

Part 6 is especially notable. Too often part sixes are the weakest chapter of the AP. They are hard to write and balance around high level PCs that can just about anything. This part six limits what the PCs can do, but does so in a way that fits the storyline to such a degree that no one will care.  Part 6s should have an epic feel to them and this one pulls it off in spades.

I only have 2 beefs with this AP. The first is its over reliance on point systems. In every volume there is some sort of point system that needs to be tracked. Rebellion points, Notoriety points, Vote points, Concession points. Ugh. I understand why the different systems are there but they just all seem so gamey. The second is that the end of part four is such a climax to the plot that part five feels a bit slow as the tension starts to build again to the surprisingly awesome Part 6.

Overall this AP just blew me away. It has been a long time since I've seen an Adventure Path that I've loved so much. The last few years Paizo has been putting out APs that are decent but nothing really outstanding. I can understand why people would like them but none of them stood out for me. Hell's Rebels hits everything on my checklist and I hope to play it or DM it at some point.