Saturday, July 23, 2016

OAWYM: Sidequest Inception

Game Date: 7/23/2016
Location: The Game Keep
Campaign: OAWYM, Session 4
System: D&D 5e
DM: Rusty

The Party:
Byzun (Gary) - Human Sorcerer
Malcer (Graham) - Human Warlock
Marcella (Lanessa) - Human Bard
Tamir (Other Matt) - Human Fighter Archer
Thokk (Daniel) - Half-Orc Barbarian
Val Ravensword (Matt) - Half-Orc Paladin

The Session:
Last session we fought some brigands from an evil organization called the "Iron Circle".  Today we headed for the town of Albridge, where we were told we'd find people who wanted to fight back against the criminal group.  We reached Albridge and entered a tavern called "The Mallard Inn".  All the patrons became silent as we entered the building.  Several of the customers were Iron Circle members, and they told us it was against the rules to carry weapons around.  We refused to surrender our weapons, and fighting ensued.

We faced seven foes - two brigands, two cutthroats, and three rabble.  Malcer won initiative, and took out an enemy with his first shot.  Thokk took some damage, and went berserk courtesy of his cursed axe.  Byzun hit a few enemies at once with Thunderwave.  Marcella used Calm Emotions on Thokk, and the barbarian fled the battle so he wouldn't go berserk again.  When we had two enemies left, one of the cutthroats critted with a sneak attack, knocking Val down to zero.  Once she was back on her feet, Val finished off the final enemy.

The bartender told us to get out.  She was afraid to be associated with any resistance to the Iron Circle.  We left the inn and encountered some village people (we refrained from singing "YMCA"). The villagers told us we should see the village elder, a halfling named Jared.  So, we went to Jared (we refrained from buying any jewelry, but we did make a few Subway jokes).  Jared told us to leave town, and wanted to make sure the villagers saw us leave so they could honestly tell the Iron Circle they witnessed our departure... but with a *wink wink* he also told us to visit the local druid outside of town.

The druid was an very ancient elf who told us to visit another village called "Tor's Hold", so we could defend them from some bullywugs.  Keep in mind our main quest was just to pass through these towns to deliver a skull to Sarthel, so this is a sidequest within a sidequest.  In Tor's Hold we met the inbred-but-friendly Bran Torson, who allowed us to stay overnight, and even threw us a party before pointing us to the bogs.  In the morning we set off to slog through the bog, finally finding the bullywug cave.

In order to enter the cave, we had to climb a small cliff next to a waterfall.  Malcer, Thokk, and Val climbed up first, and the occupants attacked us before the rest of the party made it up.  We faced a few stirges and several bullywugs.  More bullywugs kept joining the fight throughout the fight, but they weren't terribly tough.  The biggest danger came from a pair of grey oozes, which did some major damage to Malcer.

In the middle of the cave there was a large dragon skull. A bullywug spellcaster hid inside, firing spells at us. At one point he cast Entangle, creating a large zone of difficult terrain that lasted for most of the battle.  Thokk managed to go about half the battle without becoming enraged this time, but eventually he failed a Wisdom save and the madness took over.  We made sure not to get too close to him.

Thokk attacked the back of the skull, trying to break through to the spellcaster. Once everything else was dead, the rest of us fired ranged attacks into the skull's eyeholes, until we finished the caster off.  We kept him alive so we could ask questions.  Malcer knocked Thokk out so his rage would wear off, and we dragged him to the cave entrance.  While the rest of the party looted the room, Val worked on healing Thokk.  It was at this point that several more bullywugs and giant frogs entered the cave.

Most of our new opponents were easy pickings, but one bullywug was an enraged barbarian who was resistant to physical damage. At one point the bullywug grabbed Thokk's cursed axe and started wielding it.  The two struggled over the axe for a few turns.  We managed to hurt him a bit with magic damage, then Val landed the final blow with a Divine Smite crit.

These last bullywugs had been dragging a prisoner, a tied-up Halfling named Heron.  We released the Halfling and ended the session there.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

OAWYM: Axe of Rage

Game Date: 7/16/2016
Location: The Game Keep
Campaign: OAWYM, Session 3
System: D&D 5e
DM: Rusty

The Party:
Byzun (Gary) - Human Sorcerer
Malcer (Graham) - Human Warlock
Marcella (Lanessa) - Human Bard
Tamir (Other Matt) - Human Fighter Archer
Thokk (Daniel) - Half-Orc Barbarian
Val Ravensword (Matt) - Half-Orc Paladin

The Session:
Last session we defeated the evil Necromancer and recovered our employer's stolen box (which turned out to contain a scary-looking magic skull).  We took a long rest, walked back through the temple, and into the goblin cave.  The cave now contained several skeletal orcs, feasting on the goblin corpses.  Outside the cave, there was a skeletal horse and rider, a Tiefling mage, and a Wererat.  We rolled initiative.

The skeletal orcs surrounded us right off, but they weren't that hard to defeat.  At one point Malcer used burning hands to hit several at once (and Val).  The skeletal rider was pretty rough - he hit hard, and had some great movement.  Last session Thokk picked up a cursed battle axe, which now caused him to go berserk and attack his own party members.  We probably faced more danger from him than our enemies this session.

Val eventually used Turn the Unholy on the skeletal rider, who rushed out the door (provoking multiple OAs), and we never saw him again.  The Tiefling also eventually fled.  The Wererat was immune to non-magical weapons, but to his surprise we found ways to damage him anyway.  We kept him alive and asked him some questions.  All he could tell us was that they had been hired to retrieve the skull.  We let him go, and returned to our employer.

We rode on to Fallcrest, where we met up with a trade guild called "The White Lanterns" (no, not these guys). We asked them about the skull we'd retrieved.  They told us it was one of three necromantic skulls.  None of them were very powerful on their own, but when put together they would become a powerful magic artifact. They had planned to take this skull South to the city of Sarthel, but now that they knew others were trying to steal it, they wanted a new plan.

They decided to send a very public decoy caravan North, while secretly sending us to Sarthel with the skull.  Byzun joined our party, and we left town the next day.  We traveled for five days without incident.  As we approached the outskirts of the Harkenwold region, we saw smoke in the distance - there was a farmhouse in distress.  As we got closer, we saw several brigands and a pair of wolves threatening the owner of the farmhouse.  Tamir recognized their clothing as belonging to "The Iron Circle", slavers who worship Asmodeus. 

We took them out pretty quickly.  Byzun cast Shatter on two, and Malcer hit four (and Val) with burning hands.  Thokk went berserk again, and Val had to grapple him to protect the final brigand (who had surrendered).  Marcella used a Calm Emotions spell to end Thokk's rage.  While Malcer and Val looked the other way, the party killed the surviving foes so they wouldn't report back to the Iron Circle.  The farm was owned by a middle-aged Half-Elf woman.  She said these Iron Circle guys pass through occasionally collecting "taxes", and last time through they killed her husband.

We asked the woman more questions about the area.  She told us to avoid Harken village, as it's been fully taken over by the Iron Circle.  However, we might find allies in the village of Albridge.  Marcella gave the woman a few gold pieces, and we prepared to journey to Albridge.  We ended the session there.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

OAWYM: Battle Chess

Game Date: 7/9/2016
Location: The Game Keep
Campaign: OAWYM, Session 2
System: D&D 5e
DM: Rusty

The Party:
Addamon (Gary) - Human Druid
Malcer (Graham) - Human Warlock
Marcella (Lanessa) - Human Bard
Tamir (Other Matt) - Human Fighter Archer
Thokk (Daniel) - Half-Orc Barbarian
Val Ravensword (Matt) - Half-Orc Paladin

The Session:
Last session our employer asked us to retrieve a box stolen by goblins.  We fought several battles against goblins and kobolds, while exploring the twisting halls of an old temple.  After one intense battle we took a long rest.  Today began with two more of our companions joining the party.  Our employer, Traevus, had sent Marcella and Tamir to check up on us.

We started by looking into an unopened door on the opposite end of the map.  We encountered a (relatively) small dragon, but we managed to avoid a fight, and continued our explorations.  In another room we discovered a giant chessboard, containing several life-sized chess pieces.  It took us a while to figure out, but we were supposed to move like specific chess pieces, using the pattern assigned by which square we started from. 

If we moved incorrectly, we took some psychic damage.  After a couple of failures, the chess pieces on the other side of the board came to life and approached.  We faced four pawns, a queen, a knight, and a rook.  It was a rough fight - several of our party members went down more than once.  Tamir stayed outside the room, firing arrows from a distance.  Eventually he was the only one still standing... at which point, since no conscious party members were on the chessboard, the enemies retreated to their starting positions.

Tamir managed to reach Val and drag her out of the room.  Once she was on her feet again, Val lassoed each of her allies one by one, dragging them out of the room as well.  We healed up as well as we could, but Addamon was beyond saving.  Malcer destroyed the remaining chess pieces with ranged attacks.  Then we made our way across the board again, using proper chess moves this time. 

The next room contained a couple of statues, and four human guards.  We tried talking to them first, but they were committed to following their orders.  This battle wasn't as difficult as the previous one, but we still had trouble staying on our feet.  Once our enemies realized they weren't going to win, one of them turned against the others.  We saved that one for last, and made a truce with him.

We kept our defeated foes alive this time, and tied them up.  The one that helped us turned out to be a doppelganger rogue named Jinx.  We asked him why he helped us, and he said he wasn't getting paid enough for this.  He gave us an extra healing potion, told us what to expect in the rest of the rooms, and joined our party for a bit.  We headed for a storage room next, where Jinx told us to expect some goblins and a bugbear.

The goblins were a breeze, going down in one hit each.  Then the bugbear charged into the room, taking Val down to zero in one hit.  Jinx turned out to be a worthy ally, and a few rounds later the bugbear was no more.  We healed up again and searched the room.  We found some minor loot, considered resting, and (stupidly) decided to go through the next door instead.

It turned out to be the room of final boss, the necromancer Malareth.  He was guarded by three skeletons and a zombie ogre.  Barely looking up from his work, he nonchalantly ordered his followers to kill us.  Jinx changed to look like the bugbear we'd killed earlier, and tried bluffing Malareth.  Jinx told the necromancer that we were prisoners, and Malareth told the bugbear to kill us.  We closed the door again, and made sounds like we were getting killed.

Of course the ruse didn't work, and the skeletons opened the door to attack us.  This battle might have gone better if we'd been at full health, but it still would have been pretty difficult.  We killed two of the skeletons pretty quickly, Jinx finishing off one and Marcella insulting the other to death.  Then the ogre zombie reached us, and things got tough.  Jinx finally took the zombie down, but that's when Malareth decided we'd been a nuisance long enough.  His Shatter spell hit all of us, and taking four of us down to zero.

Of the two remaining party members, Jinx fled and Marcella closed the doors.  Jinx continued to run all the way out of the dungeon, untying his former allies on the way out.  Those guards took a different hallway to check up on Malareth.  Marcella used some ropes to tie the doors shut, keeping her safe while she tried reviving her teammates.  She used the party's final healing potion to bring us to our feet, and we used up whatever healing powers we had left.

We're using a house rule where we don't start rolling death saves until someone checks on you, at which point you roll all the death saves at once.  All of us survived except for Tamir, who failed too many saves.  Feeling it was our darkest hour, Malcer said a prayer to Pelor.  He rolled a 1 on his prayer roll, which was the best he could have rolled.  The light of Pelor gave all of us some major healing, and brought Tamir back to life (as well as Addamon, who we had left back near the chessboard). 

Take two!  We reopened the doors, still having to face Malareth, the third skeleton, and the guards Jinx had freed.  The guards were still low on health, so they went back down pretty quickly, and Malcer took out the final skeleton.  Val and Marcella both went down during the fight.  Thokk faced Malareth in melee, while Malcer and Tamir each made ranged attacks from the safety of the hallway.  Malcer made the final hit, bringing down the evil necromancer.

We searched the room, found lots of wizard stuff, and made sure none of us were still dying.  We ended the session there.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

OAWYM: What's In The Box? What's In The Box?

Game Date: 6/25/2016
Location: The Game Keep
Campaign: OAWYM, Session 1
System: D&D 5e
DM: Rusty

The Party:
Addamon (Gary) - Human Druid
Malcer (Graham) - Human Warlock
Thokk (Daniel) - Half-Orc Barbarian
Val Ravensword (Matt) - Half-Orc Paladin
Dene Ledford (NPC) - Val's Companion
Tatio (NPC) - Malcer's Companion

The Session:
To start off this new campaign, our characters were hired by a merchant to accompany his cart to Fallcrest.  As the sun started going down, Addamon heard footsteps in the trees.  Goblins!  Twelve of the little monsters burst from the trees, surrounding us.  Only Addamon beat the goblins' initiative, and he missed on his first roll, so our enemies got in the first hits.  Not off to a great start.

But things got better.  Malcer critted on his next attack roll, and Thokk pulverized a goblin with a crit of his own.  Then Val... got the first fumble of the campaign.  She continued to miss a lot throughout the encounter.  Addamon managed to hit three with a Thunderwave spell, killing one of them.  Then he took a hit which brought him down to zero.  Val brought him back up on her turn.

During the battle, one of the goblins climbed up into the cart, grabbed a box, and started to run off.  The remaining goblins also began to flee.  We pursued, killing off all but the box thief, who disappeared into the trees.  Thokk managed to find his trail, but the merchant called us back to him.  He gave us each a Cure potion, and implored us to get back that box.  It seemed very important to him.  We agreed to follow the trail.  We asked our NPC companions, Dene and Tatio, to stay behind to protect our employer.

The treeline finally broke and we saw the goblins running through the hills.  In the distance we saw a human mounted on a dark horse, watching us.  The goblins ran past him, and the rider rode off in their direction.  We tracked them to a cave.  There were two visible entrances: one open, and one blocked by a boulder.  We decided to see how difficult it would be to move the boulder, in the hopes of attacking the goblins from behind.  We only moved it a couple of inches, noisily, and gave up.  So we headed for the open entrance.

There were several goblins inside.  While we entered the opening, a few goblins squeezed out through the boulder entrance and attacked us from behind.  Thokk killed one with a single hit, and Malcer took two out with Burning Hands.  After a bit more fighting, Val dropped the final one.  We kept this last goblin alive for questioning.

Our captive told us he worked for a human wizard named Malareth.  We asked him a few more questions about the area, but he wasn't very forthcoming because he wasn't afraid of death.  But he did mention something about a large white dragon.  We tied him up and promised to release him on our way out.  There were two sets of doors leading farther into the caverns.  We took a long rest, picked a doorway, and opened it.

In the next room we met a pair of goblins who asked us to leave.  There was a horse tied up on the far wall, but it looked well cared for.  We couldn't reason with the goblins, so we fought.  The battle was immediately joined by a guard drake and a third goblin, this one a hexer.  The hexer kept trying to cast Command on us, but kept failing.  Thokk and Val ganged up on the drake, though Val kept missing.

After several misses, the hexer finally got one good hit in - an "Inflict Wounds" spell on Malcer.  This did enough damage to kill the Warlock outright, but since Malcer was born on the the Plane of Positive Energy (something that came up when we were rolling character backgrounds using Central Casting), the DM gave him a break and ruled that the Negative Energy spell didn't do the full damage.  Instead, Malcer was stricken with a fear of goblins.  From now on he will have to make a Wisdom save at the beginning of every goblin fight.

When the battle was finally over, all four party members had exactly 1 hit point left.  We explored the area.  In one alcove we found an eternal flame, connected somehow to the Elemental Plane of Fire.  In the drake's room we found some water that functioned like a Cure spell, and we each recovered some hit points.  Once we felt ready, we opened some more doors.

In one room we found an altar to Bahamut.  A pair of kobolds stared at us, and Thokk and Val growled at them.  Thokk critted with his first hit, killing his kobold.  The other one fled around the corner, where another pair of kobolds waited.  Malcer killed two with Burning Hands, and Thokk killed the last one.  Then we opened some more doors, and fought four more.  We took them out quickly, Addamon delivering the final blow.

In this series of connected rooms, there were several altars to various gods.  Instead of heading deeper into this half of the dungeon, we went back to the horse and tried out some of the unopened doors there.  In one room we saw a giant rat, which Thokk took out quickly.  After that was a room with three goblins.  Thokk, Val, and Malcer each killed one, and we kept going.

In yet another room we faced a goblin and another rat.  Thokk killed the rat, but the goblin brought Val down to zero.  Addamon healed her.  Thokk and the final goblin attacked each other simultaneously, and both went down together.  We healed Thokk, looked around a bit more, and decided to take a long rest.  We went back to the drake's room as it seemed the most defensible, rested, and leveled up.

We ended the session there.  Here is what we have explored so far:



Sunday, June 12, 2016

Character: Val Ravensword

This my character for our upcoming 5e Campaign.

Name: Valchra "Val" Ravensword
Race: Half-Orc
Class: Paladin
Alignment: Lawful Good
Deity: Raven Queen
Background: Inheritor

Personality Traits:
If someone is in trouble, I'm always ready to lend help.
I have a strong sense of fair play, and try to find an equitable solution to problems.
Ideals: Fairness - No one should get preferential treatment.
Bonds: I protect those who can not protect themselves.
Flaws: I'm convinced of the significance of my destiny, blind to my shortcomings.

Rolled Background Details (from Central Casting):
Cultural Background: Civilized (+4 culture)
Social Status: Well-to-do (+2 social)
Birth Legitimacy: Legitimate
Family: Mother & Father, no aunts or uncles
Siblings: Two - One older Sister, one younger brother
+10% Starting Money
Birth details: Born in hospital, no unusual circumstances
Parent occupations: Father did not work, Mother was basket-weaver.
Childhood Event 1: Village destroyed, no loss of life, rebuilt better.
Childhood Event 2: Ran away from home and never returned.
Adolescence: Inheritance. (Starting Money x10)
Saved someone's life, became her companion.
Companion: Male, in love with Val.
(Companion is secretly the god of luck in disguise.)


Misc:
(from Inheritor background): Has also inherited a secret that she believes to be part of her destiny.

Val's family pronounces their surname "Raven Sword", but she has learned they have been mispronouncing it for several generations.  It was originally "Raven's Word", relating to some sort of forgotten pact in her family's history.  Val hopes to one day find out the whole story.

Other Party Members:
Daniel - Half-Orc Barbarian (Immune to disease)
Gary - Human Druid (Has a magic foot)
Graham - Human Warlock (Born on another plane of reality)

Miniature: Pathfinder Irabeth

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Shattered Star: Xindgame

Game Date: 6/5/2016
Location: The Game Keep
Campaign: Shattered Star, Session 56
System: D&D 5e
DM: Rusty

The Party:
Bjertha Brawlbaker (Matt) - Dwarf Fighter
Fellany Mertien (Gary) - Human Fighter
Gustav Greycastle (Graham) - Human Necromancer
Maruca (Daniel) - Elf Ranger/Cleric/Rogue
Slancio Brioso (Thomas) - Human Bard

The Session:
When we left off, we'd just finished off a rune giant, and took a long rest in Gustav's magic mansion.  Then we took an automatic stairway to the next level.  In the next room there was another one of those arcane chairs that Gustav keeps playing with, this one focused on Necromancy.  There was one door, which opened into the lair of Xin, our campaign's final boss.

It was an epic battle that took up pretty much the entire session.  Xin's skeleton was housed in a clockwork reliquary, and he was guarded by three Axiomites and a couple of Elder Crystallises.  We all used our best powers.  Gustav started things off with a lightning bolt, while Slancio used a Shatter spell.  We put down a zone of Silence over the enemies.  One Axiomite tried Hold Monster on Bjertha, but Slancio had already buffed Bjertha with Mind Blank.  Bjertha finished off the first Crystallis.

The second Crystallis was Hasted, but Slancio dispelled that.  Fellany got off several crits on the Crystallis in one round, and Meruca finished it off.  Xin fired off some powerful darts that ignored armor, and dispelled the zone of Silence.  Xin's armor kept transforming, which effected what effects he was under.  Sometimes he was hasted (giving him five powerful claw attacks), and other times he auto-passed all saving throws.  His armor also had poison spines.  However, whenever Xin would roll a one, he would become stunned for a round, due to his unstable mental state.  At one point he was both stunned (auto fail all saves) and in the "auto pass all saves" mode at the same time, a contradiction that nearly destroyed the universe.

Another Crystallis appeared from a crystal in the center of the room.  Slancio hit it with Shatter, to which the Crystallises were vulnerable.  Gustav's zombies stayed in the first room, strafing across the doorway while firing Magic Missiles.  Gustav would sometimes strafe with them, using his wand of lightning.  At one point Gustav used Meteor Swarm on the enemies.  The Axiomites managed to evade the spell, but Xin took 142 points of damage... bringing him down to "bloodied". 

Bjertha kept two of the Axiomites busy and away from the rest of the battle.  The two Axiomites kept trying to use sneak attacks on Bjertha, but the fighter's Displacer Cloak kept them from hitting.  One Axiomite was brought down by a Magic Missile, and Meruca killed another.  Then Xin used Chain Lightning on Slancio, Gustav, and Gustav's guards.  Xin kept trying to use something called "Mage's Disjunction" on our Sihedron, which never worked but made us nervous.

Slancio used a polymorph spell to turn Gustav into an adult Silver Dracolich.  Then Slancio put down another zone of Silence on our remaining enemies.  Xin and Gustav faced off.  Xin hit the Dracolich with a blood power, making Gustav vulnerable to all of Xin's attacks.  Then Xin prepared to use five consecutive claw attacks, which probably would have hurt a lot... but Xin fumbled again, stunning himself. 

Yet another Crystallis appeared.  Meruca killed the final Axiomite.  Fellany made made one final attack on Xin, doing a couple of Crits for a total of 101 points of damage.  This destroyed Xin, causing the Crystallis to die as well.  The crystal tower began to shudder and crumble apart.  We loaded ourselves up however possible, and escaped the tower.

With Xin destroyed, the tower collapsed, and we headed back to town to celebrate our victory.



Sunday, May 22, 2016

Shattered Star: The Dancing Giant

Game Date: 5/21/2016
Location: The Game Keep
Campaign: Shattered Star, Session 55
System: D&D 5e
DM: Rusty

The Party:
Bjertha Brawlbaker (Matt) - Dwarf Fighter
Fellany Mertien (Gary) - Human Fighter
Gustav Greycastle (Matt, subbing for Graham) - Human Necromancer
Maruca (Daniel) - Elf Ranger/Cleric/Rogue
Slancio Brioso (Thomas) - Human Bard

The Session:
We left off still teleporting through a series of rooms.  Today's first room contained a black crystal shelf holding some silver bars, and a 15-foot tall statue of Xin.  Of course the statue came to life and fought us, that's just what statues do.  If Bjertha ever rules Magnimaar, the first thing she's going to do is throw all sculptors in jail. This statue was difficult to hit due to being obscured, and only certain weapons could harm it.  It had heat and cold powers, and the room itself also kept running hot and cold on us.

When the room would go cold, it got difficult to walk. When it got hot, we took damage.  We finally wore it down, and Fellany made the final hit.  The room continued to get hot and cold after the statue died, so we didn't stay long.  We gathered up the silver bars (which were skymetal) and teleported again.

The next room was full of poison gas. We held our breath when we could, but it we knew we had to get through this one quickly.  We met a Marilith named Belmedra.  Slancio flirted with her a bit, and she revealed that she wished to be released.  The two were really hitting it off until she noticed Maruca opening the exit door.  Fighting ensued.

The door led to a long hallway, and the more vulnerable party members headed there while our tanks held off Belmedra.  Surprise, she can teleport!  She reappeared in the hallway next to Slancio and Gustav.  With six quick sword attacks, she did a massive amount of damage to Slancio.  But despite her multiple attacks, she wasn't that tough, and we quickly finished her off.  We took a short rest and opened the door on the other end of the hallway.

The next room was filled with gears and golem parts.  We were almost disappointed that nothing tried to kill us.  Gustav used his Orrery to see visions of the past.  He saw scenes of Xin working with gears and building an army of clockwork soldiers.  When we were done looking around, we proceeded through another door.

The next room had crumbling walls, and was filled with a smoky haze.  On the ground was the body of a 40 foot giant. Gustav got a vision of Xin, who had just finished building a war machine.  A giant appeared behind Xin and attacked him.  With his last bit of strength, Xin killed the giant with an explosive spell.  Once the vision was over, Gustav wanted to revive the giant's body for his undead horde, but the giant was one step ahead of him.  It started climbing to its feet.

Gustav tried talking to the giant in Thassalonian, arguing that the enemy of our enemy is our friend.  The giant replied that he had to kill us because he had a contract.  Fight!  Slancio started things off by casting an "Irresistible Dance" spell on the giant.  This kept him dancing for several rounds, which helped us out tremendously.  Plus it was a funny mental image.  Gustav tried using Command Undead on him, but he saved.

The giant was immune to fire, cold, lightning, and probably a few other things we didn't try.  He had gems embedded in his skin that would sometimes explode with bursts of sparks.  At one point he used a powerful "Hellfire Orb" spell.  We hit him with a lot of powerful attacks, Bjertha's Undead Bane longsword coming in especially handy.  In the end, though, Gustav finished him off with a cherry-tapping Magic Missile.

We ended the session there.  Gustav might still raise the giant for his army.  We reached level 17 with 228,030 XP.  We're going to take a long rest here to level up.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Shattered Star: Four Rooms

Game Date: 5/14/2016
Location: The Game Keep
Campaign: Shattered Star, Session 54
System: D&D 5e
DM: Rusty

The Party:
Bjertha Brawlbaker (Matt) - Dwarf Fighter
Fellany Mertien (Gary) - Human Fighter
Gustav Greycastle (Graham) - Human Necromancer
Maruca (Daniel) - Elf Ranger/Cleric/Rogue
Slancio Brioso (Thomas) - Human Bard

The Session:
After finishing off last week's Bythos Aeon, we took a closer look at the contraption being held by a statue.  It was a Timeglass, which Gustav used to look into the past.  He saw civilized-looking troll, with whom he could only communicate one way.  Gustav tried to give the troll a bit of insider info about the future, and the troll wrote it down.  This troll was a seer who had given us a prophecy many, many sessions ago, and Gustav just completed a stable time loop.  Science!

Right now we're in a series of rooms that can only be reached by teleporting.  The next room contained seven crystal statues of Runelords.  A couple of them were holding large hunks of black metal ore, and each one had a halberd at their side.  As we approached, some of them knelt as if offering tribute.  Being genre savvy enough to know there was going to be a fight, we started grabbing the halberds to get them away from our future enemies.  We didn't get far before the battle started.

One of the statues was inhabited by the spirit of Xin.  It was the only one casting spells, so we tried to keep a zone of Silence around it.  Gustav used a spell to animate some of the halberds, making them attack the Runelords.  We found that the halberds did full damage the statues, while our own weapons did not, so our melee characters started switching to the halberds.  At one point Xin used Prismatic Spray which hurt a lot of us.

Gustav managed to do huge amounts of damage with his undead followers' Magic Missiles, and a well-cast Chain Lightning finished off Xin.  Then Gustav got knocked out for a few rounds.  Meruca and Slancio both used more Lightning attacks to wear down our opponents.  Then Gustav got up and cast Fireball on a few.  Bjertha killed two statues in one turn, and Gustav finished off the final Runelord statue.

We took a short rest and teleported to the next room. There was a massive cauldron and lot of liquid metal in this room.  A pair of humanoids formed from the metal in the cauldron, coalescing into the shape of Xin.  They spoke to us in Thassalonian, which only Gustav spoke.  They asked us about the progress of their army.  Gustav bluffed okay, but then they asked Bjertha a question.  Gustav quickly slipped her the tongue cast a "Tongues" spell on her so she could speak Thassalonian.  Deception is one of Bjertha's worst skills, but she rolled a 20 and we avoided a fight.  We teleported again.

In the next room we saw two insubstantial Dread Wraths guarding a fancy scimitar.  They had the ability to reduce your CON and lower your max HP.  This could have been a bad fight, but our party necromancer managed to dominate one of them right at the beginning.  Their attacks were necromancy based, so they couldn't actually hurt each other, but Gustav had the dominated one pick up the scimitar (a "Ghost Touch" weapon), to attack the other.  Some Magic Missiles finished it off.

With that one gone, we had to decide what to do with the dominated one.  It turned out she couldn't leave this room, so there was no reason to keep her with us.  Gustav asked her for any information she could give us, and then we destroyed her.  We teleported again.  In the next room there were two Crystal Guardians, and a lot of weapons on the walls.  The weapons were designed to do extra damage versus constructs, so some of us went right for them.

The Guardians had a breath weapon which could turn people into crystal.  The good news is that you get to save again at the end of your turn, so the effect usually wore off quickly.  They also did bleed damage.  Gustav animated some of the weapons on the walls, and the battle was over pretty quickly.  Fellany finished off the final Guardian.

We ended the session there, ready to teleport again.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Shattered Star: Gustav Gets Stoned

Game Date: 4/30/2016
Location: The Game Keep
Campaign: Shattered Star, Session 53
System: D&D 5e
DM: Rusty

The Party:
Bjertha Brawlbaker (Matt) - Dwarf Fighter
Fellany Mertien (Gary) - Human Fighter
Gustav Greycastle (Graham) - Human Necromancer
Maruca (Daniel) - Elf Ranger/Cleric/Rogue
Slancio Brioso (Thomas) - Human Bard

The Session:
We're still exploring every room in Xin's tower.  Last week we opened a few doors and fought a few monsters.  There was one room in particular that we thought we'd cleared, but apparently not.  Gustav went inside alone for a better look, and was promptly attacked by a "Retriever" construct.  The rest of us were occupied elsewhere, and didn't notice he was in trouble for a couple of rounds. 

Gustav fled the room while sending his zombies against the Retriever.  The enemy then used a power on Gustav that turned him to stone.  The rest of us saw Gustav's statue and joined the battle.  Meruca also got petrified, but luckily for both of them the effect was only temporary.  It was a tough monster because it had several elemental beam attacks, and we had disadvantage on most attacks against it.  Bjertha dealt the final blow.

In another room we found a lot of floating flotsam, including coins and a magic rod.  Bjertha went in to grab the rod, and four crystals started moving towards her.  Bjertha left the room as Gustav ordered his zombie dragon to attack the crystals.  The crystals did a high damage attack on the dragon, turning it into crystal statue.  Our crystalline opponents were immune to slashing and piercing damage, but it turned out they were highly vulnerable to bashing.  Bjertha and Fellany blocked the doorway, using shield bashes and punches to damage them.  Bjertha killed two of them, Fellany destroyed one, and Meruca finished off the final crystal.

The rod turned out to be a valuable magic implement... for Warlocks.  Oh well, it's still probably worth some money.  We couldn't heal the dragon, so we attempted to teleport it back to town.  Due to some wards in the tower, our attempt shattered the dragon.  Gustav stored the pieces in his portable hole for later.

In another room we found a silvery chair with a rune-etched disc floating above it.  We'd seen one of these before, it's allows Wizards to access every spell for a specific school of magic.  We went back out into the hallway and went through the door at the end.  There we saw another spell chair.  Gustav is very happy to have access to all these spells. 

On the far end of the room was an archway entrance covered in crystals.  Gustav touched a crystal, and a spectral hand reached through the crystal barrier and grappled him.  Crystal daggers fired from the walls and damaged all of us.  Slancio cast Freedom of Movement to free Gustav, and the rest of us bashed the crystals to pieces. 

We went through the archway and entered a round room.  The walls were pitch black and absorbed light.  In the center, on the floor, there was a teleportation circle.  We decided not to go through yet, as there was still one more room on this level we hadn't seen.  We took a long rest and checked out the final door.  It was another round room, with the remains of clockwork musicians.  We saw another crystal hand appear, but we didn't see a point in fighting this one.  We went back to the teleportation room.

The teleporter sent us to a square room with coppery walls, covered in murals depicting Xin.  On one end there was a statue of Xin holding some sort of contraption.  Before we could investigate, we were hit by a Slow spell with a high save DC.  A "Bythos Aeon" (a sort of four-armed tornado-looking monster) attacked us.  The Aeon started the fight by hitting all of us with a "Circle of Death" spell... which wasn't nearly as scary as it sounded.

Deciding turnabout was fair play, Gustav cast slow on the Aeon.  Our party members gradually saved against our slow effect (Bjertha was last).  The Aeon attempted to cast Mass Inflict Wounds, but Slancio counterspelled it.  Meruca finished off the Aeon and we ended the session.

Reminder:
There is no game on 5/7.  Our next game will be 5/14.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Shattered Star: Meruca Gets Stuck Doing Dishes

Game Date: 4/16/2016
Location: The Game Keep
Campaign: Shattered Star, Session 52
System: D&D 5e
DM: Rusty

The Party:
Bjertha Brawlbaker (Matt) - Dwarf Fighter
Fellany Mertien (Gary, subbing for Cliff) - Human Fighter
Gustav Greycastle (Graham) - Human Necromancer
Maruca (Daniel) - Elf Ranger/Cleric/Rogue
Slancio Brioso (Thomas) - Human Bard

The Session:
We're still exploring the various rooms of Lord Xin's crystal tower.  Today we peeked into one room and saw a long crystal table.  About a dozen defunct Legionnaires lined the walls.  The table was was set with valuable mithral dishes and crystal goblets.   We sent Meruca in, to invisibly pocket as many of the dishes as she could grab.  She would stuff a few dishes in her bag of holding, then leave the room to refresh her invisibility spell, and head back in for more.  When she was about 3/4ths done, she was detected.

As she started to grab another plate, a Wall of Force went up in the doorway, locking her in the room and separating her from the rest of the party.  Lasers shot at her from runes in the ceiling.  Slancio rushed forward and used Dispel Magic on the Wall of Force.  We all fled from the dining room, and checked out the nearby spiral staircase.  Gustav sent his pseudodragon familiar both up and down the stairs.  The lower level was partly flooded with sea water, and contained thousands of Legionnaires.  The upper level was filled with golems.  We went up.

At the top of the stairs was another vastly wide room, similar to the floor we'd come from.  Like the pseudodragon told us, the walls were lined with various types of golems.  However, none of them attacked us yet.  There were eight doorways around the room.  We started opening doors.  The first door gave Gustav interesting visions of Xin's past misdeeds, but nothing jumped out at us.  When we opened the next door, we were attacked from two directions.

Homunculus Mass
From inside the smaller room, a "Homunculus Mass" attacked us.  Meanwhile, one of the golems lining the larger room came to life.  It was a clockwork dragon.  The Mass grabbed Gustav right off, poisoning him into unconsciousness, hoping to absorb him.  Bjertha and Gustav's two best skeletons fought the Mass, while the rest of the party worked on the dragon.  The dragon was vulnerable to Lightning, so Slancio and Meruca pulled out their Lightning wands.

After a few rounds, the dragon self-destructed.  The explosion wiped out most of Gustav's zombies, and did massive damage to most of the party.  Then it released some radiation which damaged us even more.  Then the Homunculus Mass let out a loud shriek which hurt us even more.  We took a lot of damage that round, but Fellany quickly finished off the Mass and we took a short rest.

In the next room we faced three Axiomites (like the "answering machine" servants we fought in session 49), and one mechanical angel.  Bjertha and Fellany stayed in the doorway, keeping the enemies from reaching the rest of the party.  Slancio put a zone of silence in the middle of the smaller room, neutering the Axiomites' spells.  Meruca flew up and tried lightning, which was effective on the angel but harmless on the other foes.  Bjertha and Fellany kept passing the Sihedron back and forth to keep their hit points up. 

Fellany dealt the final blow to the angel.  Bjertha, Gustav, and Meruca each finished off an Axiomite.  Then we found a non-magical amulet.  We ended the session there.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Shattered Star: Pew Pew Pew!

Game Date: 3/19/2016
Location: The Game Keep
Campaign: Shattered Star, Session 51
System: D&D 5e
DM: Rusty

The Party:
Bjertha Brawlbaker (Matt) - Dwarf Fighter
Fellany Mertien (Gary, subbing for Cliff) - Human Fighter
Gustav Greycastle (Graham) - Human Necromancer
Maruca (Daniel) - Elf Ranger/Cleric/Rogue
Slancio Brioso (Thomas) - Human Bard

The Session:
Last week we got our asses handed to us by Lord Xin's soldiers, and retreated with our tails between our legs.  Back in Magnimaar, we spent a few days raising our dead characters, and prepared to head back to Xin's island to try that battle again.  (What's the definition of insanity again?)  We knew the soldiers were weak to lightning (but immune to damn near everything else) so we spent some of that downtime seeking out lightning items.  Gustav went ahead and recruited some new undead followers.

When we finally felt prepared enough, we used Dimension Door to pop back to Xin's island.  Aaaand... Ouch.  Turns out the door we'd attuned to was trapped - we should have known that; it was one of the magical Force traps Meruca disabled last session.  It must have reset in our absence.  As a result, it teleported some of us a mile away in the middle of the ocean.  Luckily we were able to catch the attention of a passing ship.  Having learned a valuable lesson about door selection, we gathered back together and entered Xin's tower.

Once again Xin was sitting on his throne, and once again he ordered his Legionnaires to kill us.  Four of the mechanical soldiers sprang to life and attacked the group.  But this time we were ready.  It was still a tough battle, and we still took a lot of damage, but this time we all survived.  Gustav killed two of them with his lightning magic, and Fellany finished off the other two.

We took a short rest, during which we passed around the Sihedron until everyone was healed up.  No spending hit dice for us!  We looked around the enormous room, and saw several doors to try.  Picking one at random, we entered what turned out to be a magical library.  There was a large black crystal held up by a spider-shaped pedestal.  The pedestal began to come to life, but we killed it before it could hurt us.  Then the crystal shattered, releasing a demon.

It wasn't a long battle.  Slancio opened with Faerie Fire, making it much easier for the rest of us to hit it.  Gustav's deadites used their Magic Missile spam.  Meruca got two crits in one turn, and Gustav's zombie dragon got the final hit. Afterwards we found some interesting loot.  There was a tome with brass pages, that allowed you to summon runes.  We found a scroll of Wish and a scroll of Conjure Celestial.  There was also a Flame Orrery that allowed you to see into the past, and allowed you to cast haste and timestop.  Gustav was fascinated by Orrery and began using it in every room, peering into the past to see visions of Xin's rise to power. 

In the next room, two Wraiths sprang out of pillars and attacked us.  Gustav tried to cast Command Undead on them, but failed.  So he went back to Magic Missile spam.  Slancio used Faerie Fire again, which kept Bjertha's aim true while she while she worked over a Wraith with her Undead Bane Longsword.  Meruca finished off that one (kill stealer) while Gustav kept the other one surrounded by his wall of pet skeletons.  Meruca finished off that one as well, and we checked out the next door.

In another small room we found a chair facing a disc with carved runes.  Meruca pointed out a trap above the chair, but Gustav set it off anyway to investigate the runes.  It turned out to be a "spell well", which gave Gustav access to all Transmutation spells.  Gustav hopes to make this dungeon his tower one day, so this will be a nice room to have when that happens.

The next room was some sort of temple.  Several pews floated in the air, and there was a statue at the far end of the room.  The statue was of a mouthless woman with six wings, the Thassilonian goddess of magic.  She had a seven pronged helm on her head (a reference to the Sihedron), and the statue wore an actual removable robe.  Gustav viewed the past through his Orrery, and saw worshipers taking off that robe and wearing it to pray. 

As we entered the room, two living runes emerged and moved across the floor.  Bjertha failed a wisdom save, and wandered away from the battle.  She walked towards the statue, intent on taking the robe and putting it on. Fellany transferred the Sihedron to Bjertha, mistakenly thinking she'd be able to use it for a saving throw against the Suggestion.  This effectively took the Sihedron out of the battle for a few rounds, because Bjertha wasn't in her right mind to transfer it back to anyone else. 

When Gustav noticed Bjertha was going for the robe, he tried levitating it above the statue, but Bjertha's a very good jumper and retrieved it easily.  Unfortunately, when the robe left the statue, it revealed a sigil of death, which caused a large amount of damage to all the party members (though we did save for half damage).  Gustav animated the pews, and had them attack the runes as well.  The pews proved to be fairly effective allies.

During the battle, the runes would change shape to use different powers.  For example, one might turn into a symbol of Pain before causing us damage.  At one point, one turned into a Stun symbol, hitting everyone but Slancio, Gustav, and a couple of zombies.  Meruca, Bjertha, Fellany, and the rest of Gustav's undead followers were stunned for one full minute.  So for the next ten combat rounds, Slancio and Gustav tried different strategies to stay alive and damage the runes. 

Slancio hit one rune with a Lightning Bolt, and Gustav killed it with a Magic Missile.  Then they played out the clock until the stun wore off.  Once we could all move again, we ganged up on the last rune.  Meruca dealt the killing blow.  We were running long so we ended the session there.

Reminder:
There's no game for the next few weeks.  Looks like the next game will be 4/16.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Finding Myself

So with only a few sessions left in our Shattered Star campaign, we've been talking more and more about what's next.  While it's not set in stone quite yet, it sounds like we're probably going to end up running a Pathfinder adventure path called "Wrath of the Righteous".  Using actual Pathfinder this time, instead of D&D 5e.  We've been talking a bit about what sort of characters each of us will be playing.  One is looking at a Changeling Witch, another is considering something skill-focused, and another is thinking Barbarian.

Usually I wait and see what the rest of the party is doing, and fill that hole.  But I just played the same boring fighter for over a year, so I'm wanting to pick something I'll really look forward to playing.  At the same time, I'm not as good with Pathfinder so I don't want anything too complicated.  So something simple, but still interesting.  Hopefully it's possible.

I'm currently researching the Warpriest, but I'm not sold quite yet.  If we do go with the Wrath campaign, Warpriest sounds like a decent fit, but I don't know enough about how it plays.  After playing Bjertha for 50 sessions, I'm a little sick of melee fighting.  If a Warpriest can be built that focuses more on healing, spells, or ranged attacks, that might please me.  But if I end up being the most heavily armored in the party, I'll probably have to tank again - which is fine, just not not my first choice.

So I'm writing this out as a mental exercise, to explore what I do and don't like about certain classes and races, so that maybe I can find something that really fits me.

My likes/dislikes:
My favorite classes are usually ranged and/or Charisma based. My favorite characters in previous campaigns were Bards, Sorcerers, and archers (various builds). I also like playing healers, but I don't like being the party's only healer unless I have a ton of healing options.  My favorite healing character was a 4e Cleric pacifist, who concentrated on healing so much that she was terrible in combat.  I also have a thing for nature magic and animal companions.

Personality/Roleplay/Flavor:
All of my characters are female (that's non-negotiable, but no one's ever complained).  Most of my characters are of Neutral Good or Chaotic Good alignment.  I could try other alignments, but I'd have problems staying in character.  A lot of my characters have been somewhat peaceful - not afraid of battle, but avoiding a fight when possible, and never killing a helpless enemy after the battle's over.  Bjertha was the most hot-headed character I've played, and she was hard to get used to.

I usually don't worry much about gold, because I like finding new equipment more than buying it in a store.  If I do buy a magic item, the first one I try to buy is a bag of holding, so I can carry more of what I find in the dungeons.  When the party does find a cache of magic items, I usually let the other players pick first.  I might end up with a random variety of mismatched equipment, but that's a lot more interesting to me than having a perfect set of optimized gear.

Core classes I haven't played in PnP:
One thing to consider is, what have I not played?  Seems like I should try everything at least once.  However, there are reasons for my omissions.

Barbarian - I wrote a big long backstory for a Barbarian one time, but I've yet to play one in a PnP campaign.  They sound like fun, but I don't think I'd like keeping track of how many rounds I've used my rage.  Plus I like my melee characters to be well armored.

Paladin - I've always liked them because they're well-armored and can heal, but I typically don't care for their personalities.  Most of my characters are of Good alignment, but I've never been into Lawful.  If the system requires Paladins be Lawful Good, I'm probably out.

Rogue - I'm fairly surprised I haven't played a Rogue in PnP, but it just hasn't happened yet.  They sound like fun on paper, but personality-wise most of them seem motivated by gold.  My characters don't tend to be very greedy, so my Rogue would have other reasons for choosing that lifestyle.  Online I used to play a Rogue who was on the run from the law after being wrongly convicted.  She didn't enjoy picking pockets, but she couldn't get a real job where she might be recognized.

Wizard - Meh.  They're so complicated and strategic, plus they go down too quickly.  I can see how they could be fun, but I don't think I have the tactical skills to run one effectively.

Races:
I've been playing a Dwarf since mid 2014, and I'd really like to play someone attractive again.  But oddly, at the same time I've been wanting to try a Half-Orc or Tiefling - they're the only core races I've never played.  Well, I don't think I've played a Gnome either, but I'm not interested.  I've also been pondering some of the non-core races, because I'm sick of playing the same races over and over again.  But I don't feel like playing anything monster-like.  I've always wanted to try a Pixie, but I don't think Pathfinder has one.  I'm also partial to cat-like people.

In past campaigns, my favorite characters have been Elves, Half-Elves, Eladrin, Dragonborn, and one Hamadryad.  I think I've played more Humans than anything, which is funny because I find them boring.  I'm already playing one in real life (though not very convincingly), so I don't know why I'd want to play them in fantasy.

Twice now when I've had trouble deciding on a character, I've rolled for race/class randomly.  However, both times I was disappointed with the outcome, and they just weren't as fun or as memorable as characters I chose myself.


Anyway, I still have a few weeks to think about it, so we'll see.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Shattered Star: The Return of Bjertha (...for a minute)

Game Date: 3/12/2016
Location: The Game Keep
Campaign: Shattered Star, Session 50
System: D&D 5e
DM: Rusty

The Party:
Bjertha Brawlbaker (Matt) - Dwarf Fighter
Fellany Mertien (Matt, subbing for Cliff) - Human Fighter
Gustav Greycastle (Graham) - Human Necromancer
Maruca (Daniel) - Elf Ranger/Cleric/Rogue
Slancio Brioso (Thomas) - Human Bard

The Session:
When we left off last week, we had just met Lord Xin.  As with most people we meet, we pissed him off and started a fight.  Xin vanished as five of his mechanical soldiers came to life and attacked.  These constructs were very tough.  They each had three attacks per round, had incredibly high attack rolls, and several inconvenient immunities.  While they mostly stuck to melee attacks, occasionally they would surprise us with a high level spell.

Early on we discovered they were immune to Magic Missile, so Gustav's undead missile spam strategy wouldn't work.  We also found they were immune to Slancio's Eldrich Blast and Firestorm spells.  Late in the battle we discovered they were vulnerable to Lightning, but Gustav was the only one who could take advantage of that weakness. 

Meruca took to the air and attacked at range, while Gustav used his zombie army to surround a soldier.  Slancio used Dimension Door to keep his distance.  We passed the Sihedron around as needed, mostly keeping them on the fighters.  One soldier tried to use Finger of Death on Meruca, but Slancio used counterspell to stop it. 

Bjertha went down to zero while the Sihedron was equipped.  This caused the Intellect Devourer - who had been inhabiting Bjertha for the last seven sessions - to pop out and start walking around.  This left Bjertha without a brain, in other words dead... but the Sihedron automatically casts True Resurrection once a day, which brought her back to life at full hit points.  Her mind was finally whole again (for what that's worth).

On its next turn, the Intellect Devourer tried to jump into Fellany, but failed.  Fellany responded by creaming the Devourer with one strike.  A good hour into the battle, we finally brought down one of the constructs, but the party was hurting badly.  Slancio tried to separate us from our foes using an Ice Wall spell, but they just broke through it. 

The final turning point was when one of the soldiers cast Meteor Swarm.  It hit each of us for 60-something fire damage and 60-something bludgeoning damage, bringing all of us down.  Gustav died instantly from massive damage, while the rest of began making death saves.  The soldiers kept attacking us while we were down, causing Bjertha and Fellany to quickly fail three death saves (it didn't help that they both rolled 1's on their saves).

Meruca had the Sihedron at this point, and the artifact's regeneration brought her back up on her next turn.  She teleported to Slancio and revived him, and the two worked together on an escape plan.  They popped around the room using Dimension Door, leaving the building and coming back in a couple of times in order to gather up all the bodies.  They noticed that upon leaving and reentering, the soldier constructs moved back into position and Xin reappeared on the throne.

Fearing that everything would start all over again, they got all the party members together and teleported back to Magnimaar.  We ended the session there, safely back in town.  Everyone but Slancio and Meruca are still dead, but we have the resources to fix that.  Unfortunately we left all of Gustav's undead back in Xin's palace, our poor Necromancer may have to start from scratch building an army.

XP: 1,270 each, bringing us up to 174,750.

Friday, March 11, 2016

D&D 5e Vs Pathfinder

It's been a while since I've made a non-campaign-related blog on this page.  A few years ago I wrote a blog about D&D 4e vs Pathfinder.  I didn't have a clear winner at the time, because the two systems have such different play styles.  Sometimes you're in the mood for tactical combat, sometimes you're in the mood for simulationist roleplay.  But in retrospect, it's not that much of a contest.  Pathfinder is so obviously superior to 4e that it's not even funny.  I still remember my 4e campaigns with great fondness, but it's not a system I ever care to play again.

We're about to wrap up our current campaign, in which we are using D&D 5e to play a Pathfinder adventure path.  This has been particularly taxing on the DM, with all the enemy and item conversions.  As I write this, we're still debating on whether to make the next campaign D&D or Pathfinder, but I believe the group is leaning toward Pathfinder.  I'm torn.  I like both systems, for different reasons.

Character Creation
Winner: 5e
So in preparation for our potential Pathfinder campaign, I started looking through the PHB for character ideas.  And I swear, after playing 5e for so long, for a minute I thought I was reading one of my old Calculus books from college.  Pathfinder's like, "You can use this power 3 times a day plus your Charisma modifier minus your Strength mod unless you're left-handed or it's a Thursday after 3PM in which case you roll a d4 and subtract 5 and add your number of eyes (minimum 1), unless your grandmother owns a parakeet in which case you can use the power two extra times per day (maximum 3 per fortnight) and it also adds budgie damage except to monsters who are immune to ice cream."

Okay, I'm exaggerating.  But I can build a 5e character in less than 10 minutes, and the great part is that I can do it myself without having to use some sort of character generator program.  This was one of the first things I loved about 5e; even in 4e I had to resort to WOTC's character creator.  In my last Pathfinder campaign I used PCGen, which was helpful but tedious.  It sped things up a lot, but it's not user-friendly enough for my tastes.

Character Options
Winner: Pathfinder
Unfortunately 5e's ease-of-use comes at a price.  The system feels so basic.  People who want more interesting characters just don't have a lot of choices.  Personally I'm really into races.  The more a system has, the better.  My two favorite books in 4e were "Heroes of the Feywild" and "Heroes of Shadow."  They didn't have the most powerful options, but I loved the flavor.  Unfortunately those books came out near the end of 4e's life, and I only got to try out one of those races before I stopped playing 4e.  With 5e releasing new content at such a glacial rate, once again they'll probably start putting out fey/dark races and classes right before 6e launches.

Meanwhile, Pathfinder has a ton of options.  Being based on an earlier version of D&D, they had a big head start and have had a lot more time to get content out there.  In fact, I'm a little surprised they don't have even more to choose from, but what's out there is enough to keep me busy for years.  For those who are bored with the standard fantasy core classes, Pathfinder is the way to go.

On the other hand, if you don't mind a little homebrew, there are a ton of fan sites out there with great new 5e options. They vary in quality, but if you look hard enough there's a lot of well-balanced content with lots of new flavor.

Healing
Winner: 5e
I've said it many times before:  I hate slow healing.  People have different ideas on what hit points represent, but to me they're more about stamina than anything.  Getting "hit" doesn't mean your enemy's sword broke your skin, it means you deflected a blow and it cost you some stamina.  In most fights, the only blow that actually cuts you is the one that takes you below zero, because at that point you were too tired to block it.

Pathfinder's "1 hit point per level per night" is maddeningly slow.  It's a relic from a time when people didn't heal up after every battle, and while I have nothing against those players, it's not for me. 

Difficulty
Winner: 5e
And by "winner" I mean it's easier to stay alive in 5e.  For some people that's not a bonus, but I'm more interested in the story than the challenge.  I don't have anything to prove; I already know I suck at battle strategy, and it's not something that really bothers me.  To me, it's not a very interesting story if we keep rolling up new characters every few sessions.  If a campaign has an over-arcing plot, then I like there to be some continuity regarding the characters in it.  If the final sessions of a campaign have a completely different cast than the early sessions, it makes me wonder why we were following those early characters in the first place. 

Rules Specificity
Winner: Pathfinder
One of the big complaints I keep hearing about the table, is that too many of 5e's rules boil down to "ask the DM".  It can really slow things down when someone asks a question, and everyone checks three different books, only to find the information hasn't been written yet.  To be fair, the internet is full of fan-made documents that fill in the gaps, but should we really have to resort to that many houserules just to play the game?  The DM might rule one way in this session, then forget and rule the opposite way in a later session.  The more you rely on the DM to fill in the gaps on the fly, the less fair the game becomes. 

Negative Effects
Winner: 5e
I've said it before, but stat reductions and level drains suck.  I might spend hours at home doing all the math to figure out all my skills and attack rolls.  Then I get attacked by a wight or something, and suddenly I have to redo all my math right there at the table, on the fly.  I have yet to meet anyone who thinks stat drains are fun.  Let me repeat that for emphasis: STAT REDUCTIONS ARE NOT FUN.

Pathfinder is one of the world's most popular tabletop RPGs, and the makers spent a lot of time taking the best elements of D&D 3.5 and tweaking them to perfection.  And yet they intentionally put in a mechanic that absolutely everyone fracking hates.  For a game designed to be fun, it doesn't make a bit of sense.  I mean, would you keep playing Monopoly if one of the rules was that you have to shove a pencil in your eye every time you pass Go?  Frankly, this is unforgivable.

But, you don't get a Marvel No-Prize just for pointing out a problem, you also have to figure out a solution.  Our DM is fond of handing out condition cards when you get Dazed or Stunned or whatever, so how about some Stat Reduction cards?  You get hit with stat reduction, you get handed a card that says, "You Are At -2 Dex.  Your get -1 to your ranged attacks, AC (depending on your armor), and the following skills:  Acrobatics, Disable Device, etc."  That would at least leave fewer eraser marks on my character sheet.  But more importantly, I want these negative effects to go away faster. 

Overall Winner
Honestly, I really prefer 5e, I just wish there were more books out for it.  I'll happily play Pathfinder, though.  Bottom line: The fun comes from the group, not the system.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Shattered Star: Xin-Sational

Game Date: 3/5/2016
Location: The Game Keep
Campaign: Shattered Star, Session 49
System: D&D 5e
DM: Rusty

The Party:
Bjertha Brawlbaker (Matt) - Dwarf Fighter
Fellany Mertien (Cliff) - Human Fighter
Gustav Greycastle (Graham) - Human Necromancer
Maruca (Daniel) - Elf Ranger/Cleric/Rogue
Slancio Brioso (Thomas) - Human Bard

The Session:
Last week we reassembled the titular Star, and used it while saving the city from tidal waves and attacking monsters.  After we returned to Heidmarch Manor, the Pathfinder Society had some news for us.  It looks like the attacks had been coming from the "Island of Xin", and they asked us to go check it out.  After a long rest (which brought us up to level 15), we hired a ship and headed for the island.

This island had recently risen out of the water.  In fact, it was still rising.  It was full of ruins, and had one significant landmark - a large tower made of crystal.  As we approached the tower's only door, we saw three gillmen beckoning to us from the nearby water.  We couldn't understand their language, so Slancio cast a communication spell.  The gillmen kept encouraging us to join them, but we declined.

Meanwhile, Bjertha tried the door.  There was no handle, so she just pushed, which set off a trap.  Crystal shards shot out in a cone, damaging several party members.  Meruca finally managed to defeat the magical locks and let us inside. 

There was a hallway inside.  Three runes rose up out of the floor, and formed into elf women.  These servants of Xin told us that their master was not available right now, and asked us to leave.  We asked them several questions, but their responses were limited so our conversations went in circles.  While we stood around wondering what we should do next, Bjertha and Fellany suddenly felt compelled to start walking into the water.

Those gillmen outside turned out to be a ruse, in reality three Aboleths swam nearby trying to compel us to be their slaves.  As the two fighters marched into the water, Slancio used his magic ring to part the waters, making the battle much easier.  While Slancio couldn't dispel the Aboleths' mind control through words alone, he managed to convince Bjertha and Fellany to adopt a relatively neutral stance in the combat.  The fighters didn't attack either side, but did their best to protect the Aboleths from damage.

Gustav sent his pet dracolich to charge the Aboleths.  Bjertha and Fellany made no move to harm the dragon, but attempted to grapple it instead.  Meruca delivered the killing blows on two of the Aboleths, and one of Gustav's skeletal minions finished off the third.  After the battle, we had Meruca fly around to see if there were any other ways into the tower, which there weren't.  With no other options, we decided to fight Xin's servants.

We started the battle by shooting a lightning bolt at them. They answered with a couple of bolts of their own. Slancio threw down a zone of Silence at them.  Bjertha and Fellany ran into the room to for some melee attacks.  All of Gustav's undead followers have their own wands of Magic Missile now, so they kept moving into view, firing all their missiles, and moving back out of range.  We passed the Sihedron around a few times during the battle, putting it on whoever could make the most use of the artifact. 

Bjertha killed the final servant, and we looked around the room.  On the far side of the hall was another wall similar to the outer door, and Meruca was good enough to deactivate this one as well.  We went through the door and entered a large throne room.  There were mechanical troops standing in rows, and a transparent floor revealing water beneath us. 

On the throne sat King Xin himself, missing two legs and an arm, and covered in horrible burns.  We spoke to him with utmost reverence, faking loyalty in order to gain his trust.  He showed us a vision in which he revealed his plans to take over Magnimaar.  We asked him if there was any way to execute his plan in a more peaceful manner, perhaps an alliance with Magnimaar instead of war.  He lost his temper and accused us of disloyalty.  And on that cliffhanger, we ended the session.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Shattered Star: The Unshattering

Game Date: 2/27/2016
Location: The Game Keep
Campaign: Shattered Star, Session 48
System: D&D 5e
DM: Rusty

The Party:
Bjertha Brawlbaker (Matt) - Dwarf Fighter
Fellany Mertien (James, subbing for Cliff) - Human Fighter
Gustav Greycastle (Graham) - Human Necromancer
Maruca (Daniel) - Elf Ranger/Cleric/Rogue
Slancio Brioso (Thomas) - Human Bard

The Session:
Last week we found the final shard and returned to the Pathfinder Society.  We got a couple of weeks of downtime, during which we did a lot of carousing.  Then we attended a council meeting, where they decided they would reassemble the shards at a festival on the Irespan (Magnimaar's giant bridge).  After another week of downtime, we attended the festival.

Part of the reforging process involved our magic users expending all their spell slots, an action we would come to regret later.  The pieces came together, forming a Sihedron which rose into the air.  Sheila nudged Bjertha to touch the Sihedron.  As Bjertha touched it, it gave off a bright light, and began floating behind Bjertha's head.

The assembled Sihedron has the following properties:
Sihedron
+2 to all six stats.  +1 AC. Glows (as a Daylight Spell). Regeneration 5
Foresight: Can't be surprised, Advantage on attack rolls, ability checks, saving throws.  Other creatures have disadvantage against you on attacks.
True Resurrection on self 1/day (Activates automatically if user dies)

User picks one point to be "ascendant" and gains the bonus and at-will spell listed. User may change the point as an action, but can not use the oppositional points.
As a bonus action (once per round), the user may teleport it to a wiling creature within 120'. As it does so, both gain +2 on saving throws and heals both creatures of 3d8+10 damage. This can be done when a creature fails a saving throw, but before the DM says if it is successful or not, or after a creature takes damage. When the Sihedron is teleported, the new user can choose which point is ascendant, even a point which would be oppositional.

Charity: +4 bonus to AC, and the user can not be moved against his will, plane shifted, etc. Opposed by kindness and temperance.
Generosity: +4 bonus on attack rolls, and gain Wild Shape as a druid of your level. Opposed by humility and love.
Humility: +5 on all skill checks, and Greater Invisibility as a spell-like ability. Opposed by generosity and zeal.
Kindness: +4 to weapon damage rolls, and casts Ice Storm as a spell-like ability. Opposed by charity and zeal.
Love: Grants +5 on initiative checks and Charm Person as a spell-like ability. Opposed by generosity and temperance.
Temperance: Regeneration 10 (overwrites the Regeneration 5 the Sihedron normally grants), and Fear as a spell-like abililty. Opposed by charity and love.
Zeal:+5 bonus on concentration checks and spell attack rolls, and Dimension Door as a spell-like ability. Opposed by humility and kindness.
However, it does require attunement, which we didn't get a chance to do right away.  Clouds started gathering in the distance, and the ground began to shake.  A giant spider - a "Shriezyx" - climbed up onto the Irespan.  It was tough, and our lack of magic made it look it would be a difficult battle.  But Bjertha used her "Devour Intellect" power, ending the fight.

We noticed the water was receding.  We realized that a huge tidal wave was coming, and warned everyone to get to safety.  The water hit Magnimaar hard, flooding half the city.  Afterwards we assisted in rescue operations.  While searching one flooded area, three large mechanical monsters headed for us.  Slancio used his magic ring to divide the water so we could fight on dry land.

The monsters were Clockwork Leviathans.  They had a high AC, but were weak to lightning.  Unfortunately we started dividing our attacks early on, each of us facing a different opponent.  Over the course of the battle, Gustav, Slancio, and Fellany each got swallowed by a different leviathan.  After a lot of fighting, Bjertha finally brought one down.  Then Gustav killed his from the inside, using his rod of lightning.  Bjertha finished off the third one, and we rested a bit. 

We heard reports that a giant monster was attacking people on a nearby island.  Of course we headed in that direction.  It turned out to be a scylla named Aureusa.  This creature was a woman from the waist up, with tentacles from the waist down.  Around her waist was a ring of living wolf heads.  It kept grabbing citizens and killing them.

Slancio realized it was an illusion, and we detected that the source of the illusion was behind a nearby building.  As each of us overcame the illusion one by one, the real Aureusa emerged and attacked us.  She was a tough one.  She had lots of attacks, the ability to grapple and restrain her victims, and a fear aura.  However, by now we'd attuned to the Sihedron, which put its wearer into Godmode. 

Bjertha was wearing the Sihedron at the start of the battle, using the Kindness mode for the extra damage and Ice Storm spells.  When Slancio went down later, Bjertha transferred the Sihedron to him, recovering some of his health.  He switched it to Generosity mode, using the Wildshape ability to deal with Aureusa's grapples.  At one point he changed into a giant octopus so he could grapple back, then he changed to a flying snake to escape. 

Once Bjertha got the Sihedron back, she used the Charity mode to avoid damage while keeping Aureusa busy.  While the scylla concentrated its attacks on Bjertha,  Meruca finished the monster off with some of her most damaging moves.  As the session was running a bit long, we stopped there for the week.