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.


Sunday, February 21, 2016

Shattered Star: Mission Accomplished

Game Date: 2/20/2016
Location: The Game Keep
Campaign: Shattered Star, Session 47
System: D&D 5e
DM: Rusty

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

The Session:
Being somewhat less than well-rested from last session's nightmare, today we prepared to go through the portal to plane of Leng.  But first, we decided to check out the three minor portals we saw in the Lich room.  We tried sending Gustav's familiar through them, but it kept dying.  Okay, fine, it wasn't that important.  We went back to the main room and performed the ritual - pour powder into the fountain, immerse ourselves in water, leap into the mist.

In Leng, we appeared on a covered pagoda-like platform, connected by a short bridge to an ice shelf.  It was cold and the weather was miserable.  We crossed the bridge and began to pass six sphinx statues to enter a building.  But before we could get that far, a gaggle of faceless winged beasts swarmed around us.  They were "Nightgaunts", and there were nearly twenty of them.  We managed to kill a couple of them early in the first round, but it took multiple hits per kill, so it still looked like it might be a lengthy battle.  But Slancio cast Firestorm, killing thirteen of them and leaving the final three severely hurt.  Then Gustav killed one and Meruca finished off the final two.

We entered the building.  The architecture was strange, with walls at odd angles and built from otherworldly materials.  Our friend Morcruft the Leng Ghoul (who we met last session) told us this place was called the "Temple of the Crawling Chaos".  Lovely!  We met some other ghouls, Morcruft told them we were cool, and we asked them for advice about finding the dragon Cadrilkasta.  The ghouls told us that they had been subcontracted by the Moonbeasts, and that we should consult with them.  They led us to see the Moonbeasts.

We were led through several halls, ending up in a room with a giant hole in the wall.  Odd corpses lay strewn about this tunnel entrance.  The Moonbeast temple guardians acknowledged our presence, and asked us to assist them.  They were trying to build a weapon to kill the dragon, and needed our lives to power it.  We didn't like that idea, but Slancio was able to persuade them that we'd be better dragon slayers while still alive.  They allowed us to pass into the tunnel towards the dragon's lair.

The tunnel ended in a large cavern.  One entire wall was open, and we could see mountains and other landmarks in the distance.  On the opposite side of the cave we saw Cadrilkasta, perched on top of her treasure horde, clutching the final shard.  She told us that she'd dreamed of us, and she knew that we carried the other shards.  She asked us to give up our shards so that her collection would be complete.  We refused, and the fight began.

On the dragon's first turn, she blasted Bjertha and Meruca with lightning breath.  Meruca saved without a scratch, while Bjertha took a whopping  101 points of damage.  She was a tough opponent, but we'd beaten tougher.  She used lots of wing attacks that knocked down multiple opponents.  Slancio dispelled her mage armor, making her a bit easier to hit.  When the dragon started to get low on hit points, she tried going invisible, but we kept attacking her space until she reappeared.  It was actually one of Gustav's zombies who dealt the killing blow.

We looted her treasure horde, filling up every bag of holding the party owned.  Part of her loot included a portable hole, which Gustav used to keep the dragon herself.  He's been talking about wanting a dracolich mount someday.  Finally we walked back out through the Temple of Chaos.  The only way back to our plane was to jump off the cliff into the mist.  We took a ton of falling damage getting back, but we survived.

We kept on going back through the dungeon.  Once we were finally back to the surface, we used a teleport spell to return to Magnimaar.  We dealt with some business in town, and finally headed to Heidmarch Manor.  Our questgiver Sheila Heidmarch was very glad to see us return with the shards.  She has decided she wants to reassemble the shards.  Once assembled, the Shattered Star will once again be a major artifact of unknown power.

Our party is wary of the idea.  Granted, it was our mission to recover these shards for the Pathfinder Society, but we've grown accustomed to the powers these shards have given us.  We're also worried that once created, this powerful artifact could fall into the wrong hands.  And how well do we know Sheila, really?  We ended the session there.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Shattered Star: Now You're Thinking With Portals

Game Date: 2/13/2016
Location: The Game Keep
Campaign: Shattered Star, Session 46
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 (Daniel, subbing for Thomas) - Human Bard

The Session:
We entered a large octagonal room with seven exits.  There was a pit in the center, filled with silver smoke.  On the far side was a fountain.  Fellany recognized this location from a dream, in which she had learned there was a secret eighth exit.  We saw six sets of doors, labeled for our convenience:

1. The Dreaming Crypt
2. The Grand Hall
3. The Giltspur Treasury
4. The Binding Chamber
5. Whisperstone Sanctum
6. Abysium Core

The Giltspur Treasury's door was ruined, and the entire room had been cleaned out and smashed.  We opened the door to the Dreaming Crypt.  There were several sarcophagi, but they had already been opened and looted.  There was a Ghoul in there, but he seemed peaceful.  We had our resident necromancer, Gustav, do all the talking.  The Ghoul was from the plane of Leng, and only wished to go back there.  He was able to tell us a little about the dragon's recent activities.  He knew that we'd need dust from the Abysium Core to replicate the dragon's ritual.

We went to the Abysium Core next.  It was full of magical crystals and lightning, and the party kept taking CON damage as long as the doors were open.  Gustav sent in some zombies to gather dust, but they weren't able to grab much.  Later Bjertha went in with a bag of holding to collect more.  Bjertha proved highly resistant to the CON attacks.

In the Whisperstone Sanctum we found a large tan stone, with a faceted indentation in the center.  It looked like a place where a gem should be inserted.  A successful knowledge check told us that a Whisperstone Crystal is used to record information and memories.  We decided to look for this missing gem.

In the Binding Chamber, there were three faceless statues and a metal grill on the floor.  Two of the statues were holding vessels, from which smoke rose.  As Fellany entered, faces coalesced in the smoke.  One was a beautiful deva, the other was an ugly pig-faced demon.  The told Fellany that dumping one of the vessels would destroy that spirit but release the other.  Each face told her that the other face was lying.  Being genre savvy (or just chaotically bored), Fellany dumped the deva, releasing the demon.  The demon revealed to us that she was really the deva, and that their minds had been switched by evil magic.

We went for the last unopened door, the Grand Hall.  We saw stone faces on the walls, one smiling and the other scowling.  Behind the faces were magical portals.  On the far side of the room there was a giant damp curtain.  Behind the curtain was a third face (fear), and another portal.  There was also a throne, upon which sat a jewel-encrusted skull and a horned mask.

The curtain suddenly fell.  It turned out to be a green slime, creating a deadly moat between the party and the throne.  Then the skull began to hover, and attacked.  It was a Demilich, and a tough one.  He had legendary actions, regeneration abilities, fear powers, and lair actions.  He kept hitting Gustav with anti-magic spells, unsummoning his undead followers and preventing us from using healing him.  It was a hard fight, but we finally won.

We took a gem from the throne, and carried it to the Whispering Sanctum.  Using the crystal to get information, we learned that the various portals led to different areas of the dungeon.  We learned how to recreate the dragon's ritual, and that the giant central portal was a portal to Leng.  In order to use it, we have to pour powder into the fountain and cast either Nightmare or Plane Shift.

We decided to take a long rest before doing any plane shifting.  Once again we had nightmares.  Slancio, Bjertha, and Meruca shared a dream in which we fought a giant white worm.  This thing was way beyond us, and we didn't stand a chance.  Bjertha was swallowed, and the other two took massive damage without much chance to fight back.  Slancio survived the longest, but the worm still made short work of the party.

It was just a dream, and the only negative outcome was a level of exhaustion.  But if this is representative of an actual encounter we're going to have later, then we're going to need a plan.  We ended the session there.

Note: We each received 8,000 XP, bringing us up to 140,998 (level 14).

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Shattered Star: We Get The Shaft

Game Date: 2/6/2016
Location: The Game Keep
Campaign: Shattered Star, Session 45
System: D&D 5e
DM: Rusty

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

The Session:
Last session we fought a huge sea monster.  Today we started out by looting the monster's hoard, and looked for a place to rest.  We started to explore a small island, only to stumble across an invisible shaft.  We sent Gustav's raven down the shaft, and found that there was a room at the bottom.  We took a long rest in Gustav's magic mansion, then debated on where to go next.

We decided to check out the rest of the islands first.  We flew around a bit, looking at various small beaches and islands.  One landing had a trail of broken stalactites, and we found evidence of a giant purple worm.  We saw the worm's tunnel in one wall, but didn't investigate it yet. 

Another island hosted six Nagas performing some sort of ritual.  Slancio hit them with a Firestorm spell (from a magic harp he'd obtained from the sea monster's hoard), and the battle was on.  We hit them with a lot of good attacks before they got a turn, so by the time they got their footing (so to speak) we'd already killed half of them.  It turned out they had some decent mind attacks, taking Bjertha out of the battle with a hypnotic stare.  But by then it was too late for them to take control of the fight.  Fellany delivered the final blow,  and we looked around the island.

It looked like the Nagas had been trying to create a portal to the Abyss.   We trashed the place, so when they reincarnate later (as Nagas do), they'll have to start from scratch.  At this point we'd seen all the islands.  We had to decide whether to go down the shaft, or into the purple worm's tunnel.  The party voted, and picked shaft.  We made our way down the long shaft, with help from Meruca's mechanical wings.  At the bottom of the shaft was a small room, with a short tunnel leading to a door.

Bjertha (who is currently really an Intellect Devourer) detected an alien sentience beyond the door, but didn't tell the rest of the party.  The door was locked and trapped.  Meruca failed to unlock it, so Slancio tried the Knock spell.  We were blasted by a powerful gust of wind, leaving some of us confused.  Gustav was controlling two ghouls at the time, and both got confused and attacked their master.  The first hit paralyzed Gustav, so he was unable to tell the party his minions were just confused.  Thinking the ghouls had turned bad, we killed them.

Through the door was a long grand hallway, with a faceless sphinx at the far end.  As we walked through the hall, some of us were suddenly slowed.  A "Flying Polyp" appeared and attacked.  This thing was tough.  It used powerful wind attacks and had a Frightful Presence.  Gustav used a lightning wand, and found it the monster was vulnerable to lightning damage.  It countered by hitting Gustav with Windwall.  Gustav went down three times during this fight.  It was a long battle, but Meruca finally finished it off.

We examined the sphinx statue at the top of the stairs, but (oddly for this game) it didn't come to life or try to eat us.  We saw one side door that we will investigate next, but for now we ended the session.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Shattered Star: Legen... Wait For It... Dary Actions

Game Date: 1/30/2016
Location: The Game Keep
Campaign: Shattered Star, Session 44
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 had some visions, re-fought the Curator, and Bjertha got taken over by an Intellect Devourer.  Today we went up some stairs and wound up in a room with three sets of doors.  No, make that two sets of doors, and a wall painted to look like a third set of doors.  Naturally we tried the fake doors first, and were surprised to find that they actually opened.  Wile E Coyote would be proud.  Inside was an opulent mansion, filled with ghostly servants.  Gustav immediately recognized this as the "Mordenkainen's Magnificent Mansion" spell.  It seemed like a safe place, so we took advantage of the hospitality.

In another room (outside the mansion), there was a window that kept changing scenery.  A jackal-headed creature in one of the scenes psychically attacked Fellany, leaving her with INT and CHA of 1.  We all took a long rest in the mansion, most of us having bad dreams.  Fellany dreamed about the next shard... she saw a room with seven doors, but she knew the correct path was behind a hidden eighth door.  She fell under the effects of madness, and awoke wanting to kill people (well, more so than usual).  She rushed us through breakfast and began her search for a fight.

Don't blink.
Through another door we found a very long hallway, filled with stone columns.  The columns were carved to look like faceless angels. Two of them animated and attacked us.  It was not a difficult battle, and Fellany was happy to have something to hack into pieces.  In fact she kept hacking away long after they were rubble, but it still wasn't enough to satiate her insanity.  We continued through the hall, barely keeping up with Fellany's search for more opponents.

We wound up on the broken edge of a bridge, overlooking a huge water-filled room.  There were still two rows of pylons sticking out of the water, remnants from where the bridge used to be.  The room was dark and vast, and the walls were too far away to see.  Gustav sent his raven familiar to explore the area.  Able to see through his raven's eyes, Gustav learned that there were a few small islands, and a couple of beaches.  One of the beaches seemed to lead to more tunnels.

While we were discussing our plans, something affected Bjertha's mind, and she began hopping from pylon to pylon away from the party.  The bloodthirsty Fellany was afraid Bjertha would steal her kills, and hopped after her.  Not wanting to be left behind, Gustav and Slancio cast "Fly" on their undead Fire Giant follower, and rode it in Bjertha's direction.

Fellany soon missed one of her hops, fell into the water, and was grabbed by a tentacle.  She was pulled under by a large sea monster ("Ognathooga").  Gustav's turned his flying giant around to aid her.  Bjertha saved against whatever was compelling her, and also turned around to aid Fellany.  It was a tough fight.  The sea monster was hard to damage, and had advantage on saving throws against spells.  In addition to its own turns, it had three "Legendary Actions" per round, allowing it to make extra attacks after other players' turns.

Fellany fared the worst in this battle, spending most of the fight restrained by tentacles.  Slancio and Gustav stayed on the flying Fire Giant.  They swooped back and forth for strafing runs on the monster, eventually picking up Meruca for even more firepower.  At one point the monster exuded a cloud of gas at our flying party members, causing Confusion and Wisdom damage to some of them.  When Fellany reached 0 hit points, Bjertha poured a healing potion down her throat.  Then the monster grabbed Bjertha as well, and swam off with both fighters in its grasp.  It pulled them into an underwater tunnel. 

Bjertha broke free and swam to freedom.  The monster followed.  Once it was back in open water, Meruca donned a Cap of Water Breathing and dove in.  Then Gustav dropped poured out a bag of zombies to give the monster more things to target.  Bjertha tried using her Intellect Devourer powers several times, but the monster kept saving.  When Fellany hit 0 for the second time, Meruca used a powerful healing spell that restored 70 hit points and cured Fellany's madness.

The monster took off with Fellany one more time, dragging her back into the tunnel, and adding her to its treasure hoard.  Our casters used some Freedom of Movement spells, greatly speeding us up as we swam towards the monster's lair.  The sea monster used a Dominate spell on Meruca, but she was cured before her turn even came around.  On Meruca's turn, she finally finished off the monster.

It was a long battle - like "4e" long - but it was full of exciting twists.  By the time it was over, it was well past the time we usually end our sessions, so we stopped there without dealing with any aftermath.  Given all the damage we took (especially Fellany), it's likely we'll take at least a short rest before continuing.  And we should probably check out the sea monster's hoard... that sounds promising.

Miniature Spotlight:  Thomas paints a mini for Daniel.  Great job!



Saturday, January 9, 2016

Shattered Star: Visions and Vestibules

Game Date: 1/9/2016
Location: The Game Keep
Campaign: Shattered Star, Session 43
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 fought the ghostly curator of the dungeon's museum.  Today we took a short rest and continued exploring the next hallway.  The next significant room was a large cathedral.  On the North and South sides of the room were several alcoves, holding statues of faceless winged women.  In the middle of the room there were four large vats full of green liquid.  Each vat contained a different creature - a young adult Silver Dragon, a Roper, a Badger, and an eviscerated Phase Spider.

We walked past the vats, and found the opposite doors to be trapped.  Gustav tried to dissipate the magical trap, but ended up setting it off instead.  There was a sonic boom which damaged the party and broke all the glass vats.  Some of the creatures began to stir.  Meruca and Slancio attempted to use diplomacy on the Dragon, while Gustav attacked the badger.  The Dragon acted erratically, and attacked us.

Most of the party engaged the Dragon, while Gustav's zombie horde kept the Roper busy.  The Dragon hit Bjertha with a psychic attack which stunned her, with after effects that resonated deep within her character sheet.  Once we defeated all our opponents, their bodies dissolved into ooze.

We went back to the museum and took a long rest.  Gustav climbed back up the tower and camped up there, while the rest of us slept at the tower's base.  Gustav had a pleasant night, but the rest of us had bad dreams.  Most of us had identical dreams involving being chased by spiders across a tundra.  We woke exhausted.

We went back through the cathedral and tried the doors again.  The next room contained a large pool of water, from which two Water Elementals attacked the party.  They did a lot of damage to Meruca and temporarily killed our largest zombie, but in the end we prevailed.  We went up some stairs and found a room with two water globes on the walls.  As Meruca stepped too close to one of the globes, she had a harrowing experience.

From Meruca's point of view, she suddenly found herself underwater, facing a giant sea monster.  At first she tried swimming away from it, but it was much faster than her.  She fought it for a few rounds, taking a lot of damage, until suddenly the vision ended.  While the event lasted several rounds, for the rest of us it was instantaneous.  All we saw was Meruca stumble a bit as the vision faded, down a lot of hit points but not visibly damaged.

The room also contained a Helmet of Water Breathing, and a horn adorned with a Pearl of Power.  Meruca discovered she'd caught a disease from her fight - her skin became translucent, and she had trouble breathing oxygen.  Slancio cured her with a Lesser Restoration spell, and we went back down the stairs to try the next door.  Through a small vestibule, we reached a room with an altar.  Slancio entered first, and had a vision of his own.

A pair of Gargoyles came to life and attacked Slancio.  The doors shut behind him, and one of the Gargoyles grabbed him and carried him miles up into the air.  He finally defeated the Gargoyle and the vision ended.  The rest of the party saw none of this; the doors never actually shut, and we just saw Slancio throw himself onto the ground.  We helped him to his feet and went through some doors on the left.

In another vestibule, we saw a skeleton holding a satchel.  Gustav grabbed the bag, and a figure coalesced in front of us.  It was the ghostly Curator we fought last session.  He angrily shouted, "You will not defile my body!" and attacked us, ignoring our attempts at diplomacy.  He got the ball rolling by casting Prismatic Spray, hitting three of us with different effects.  Then he used Chain Lightning, which did a good amount of damage to four party members.

On the plus side, Bjertha's Undead Bane Longsword was quite effective on him, and we managed to take him before too long.  After the fight, we looted the body.  The satchel was a Handy Haversack, and we also found a Cloak of Protection and a Helm of Intellect.  We healed up a little and ended the session.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Shattered Star: The Great Curator

Game Date: 12/19/2015
Location: The Game Keep
Campaign: Shattered Star, Session 42
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:
We left off faced with a round, foggy room.  The room was a giant pit, but the fog obscured the bottom.  We could see a tunnel on the other side.  Gustav sent his bird familiar across the pit, and confirmed that the tunnels on the other side only led to places we'd already been.  Then he sent his bird down into the fog to determine it was safe to proceed in that direction.  Once we were ready, we all descended into the pit using ropes and fly spells.

Once we were past the fog, we saw that the room below us was a library.  There were four doors, one in each cardinal direction.  There were high bookshelves all over the place, and several robed people walking around.  As soon as we were detected, the robed people vanished, and the books started flying of the shelves and expelling a black mist.

As we landed, a pair of giant scorpion constructs attacked us.  They were powerful creatures that hit hard.  They had multiple attacks, poison, grapples, damage reduction, and a fear effect.  Gustav was knocked down to 0 before he even had a turn, and our Smilodon friend was killed in the first round.  Fellany soloed one (not by choice - she was grappled) while the rest of us ganged up on the other.  Bjertha dealt the final blow on the first one, and one of Gustav's zombies finished off the second.

Once the scorpions were dead, we searched the library.  Slancio found a set of thin metal plates that, when spread out, showed the anatomy of a large aquatic creature.  As we explored and looted, a glowing ghostly Curator appeared and told us to put everything back.  We asked him about the area, and he told us the South passage was full of interesting curiosities.  He said we could look, but not touch.  We took a short rest and proceeded through the South door.

This door lead to a series of hexagonal rooms.  As promised, they were full of interesting relics.  A ghostly voice welcomed us and reminded us not to touch anything.   We were very respectful and kept our hands to ourselves.  Yeah, right.  We saw a lot of neat artifacts.  The entry room had several statues of people with four wings and no faces.  One room housed a statue of a Sphinx, the front half buried under rubble.  Another room contained a fireball frozen in time.  Another artifact-filled room had a mummified snake with an Ioun Stone in its mouth.  Slancio grabbed the stone and waited for retribution, but nothing immediately attacked us.

In another room, Gustav found a spiral staircase, which took him to the top of the tower.  Up on the roof, he saw a forest one one side and a tundra on the other, which was odd considering this dungeon is in the desert.  He also saw some butterflies carrying a miniature version of this tower.  Or maybe he imagined the whole thing.  He came back down and told us about what he'd seen.

Meanwhile, Fellany also saw something strange.  While examining the butt of the Sphinx statue, it turned around and faced her with its faceless face.  The entire world seemed to fall away for a second before Fellany snapped back to reality, and the Sphinx was back to the way it was before.  Gustav came to help Fellany to investigate the Sphinx, and found a crystal ball.  Slancio tried to pocket the ball, and the Curator appeared and attacked.  The Curator was beyond talking to, so we had to fight him.

The Curator was tough.  He was insubstantial, had a lot of high level spells, and he had the ability to steal spell slots from our party's magic users.   Slancio hit him with Dispel Magic, which took away his Mage Armor.  The Curator dominated Bjertha early in the battle, and she fought Fellany for round before another Dispel Magic returned her to normal.  Angry at having been controlled, Bjertha finished the battle by hacking away with her Undead Bane Longsword. 

We ended the session pretty quickly after the final blow, so we haven't rested yet.  The party is getting low on spells and Hit Dice, so we could really use a long rest.

Reminder:
There is most likely no game on  12/26 or 1/2.  We should play again on 1/9.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Shattered Star: The Pie Is A Lie

Game Date: 12/12/2015
Location: The Game Keep
Campaign: Shattered Star, Session 41
System: D&D 5e
DM: Rusty

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

The Session:
When we left off, we were in bad shape after a battle with Giants and Rift Drakes in a disgusting trap-filled room.  We started today's session by finding a decent resting spot and leveling up.  Then we passed back through the entrail room, double-checked for additional traps, and went through the doors at the far end.

Eventually we reached a large circular room.  It had a slatted wooden floor, with boards laid far enough apart that we had to be careful not to step in holes.  On each side of the round room there were gigantic holes in the wall.  One side led to some lava tubes, and the other side opened up to a makeshift throne room filled with Giants.  We faced four Hill Giants, a Fire Giant, a Chieftain, and the Chieftain's mate.  A few rounds into the battle, three more female Giants joined along with a Smilodon.

The Chief cast fireball early in the fight, which hurt a lot.  We noticed that one of the spikes on the Chief's club was actually the shard we've been searching for.  That seems a little early in the dungeon, we thought.  The first big turnaround in the fight occurred when Gustav cursed the Chief, keeping him from taking actions.  This kept us alive for several rounds.  When the curse wore off, the enraged Chief rushed past all other combatants, straight for Gustav.  One round later, Gustav was down.

Fellany chased the Chief and finished him off, while Slancio revived Gustav.  Meruca killed the Fire Giant and the final Giantess.  The Smilodon ran off, and we started looting the area.  There was a chest with a boulder sitting on it.  Once we removed the boulder, we found some furs, gold, silver, a Rope of Entanglement, seven gold Dwarf skulls, a Ring of Spell Storing, and a few other odds and ends.  Gustav cut off the Chief's head and eviscerated some of the other corpses, because he's like that.  The Chief's shard was indeed the Shard of Wrath we'd been looking for.

While we were searching, the Smilodon attacked us.  It was still badly hurt from the fight, and we decided to befriend it rather than kill it.  We healed it, fed it, and used a "Speak With Animals" spell to find out more about the area.  He told us the dragon would be returning at some point.  We used the Wrath Shard to point us to the next shard (Sloth), and it is indeed further down in this same dungeon.  Two for the price of one!  We explored one of the lava tubes.

At the end of one tunnel, there were two Fire Giants guarding a door, which was also blocked by a boulder.  They were also guarding a pie.  We showed them the Chief's head in hopes of intimidating them, and asked them what they were guarding.  They told us that the door was keeping the monsters from coming through.  We asked them to leave, and tried to strike some sort of deal.  They wanted us to bring them a cook.  Apparently their pie - which was made of Hill Giant - wasn't good enough.  Slancio tried to bluff them by conjuring an illusory pie, but this only made them angry and they attacked.

These Giants hit hard, but we used some attacks early on that kept the battle from getting too intense.  The Smilodon pounced on one Giant, knocking him prone, while Gustav blinded both opponents.  Fellany killed one Giant, Meruca finished off the other.  Meruca tried tried to keep hers alive, but Fellany decided to coup de grace it.  We moved the boulder, opened the doors, and faced a round, foggy room.  Meanwhile, the Smilodon ate the pie.

We'll pick up there next week.


Saturday, December 5, 2015

Shattered Star: Don't Step In the Entrails

Game Date: 12/5/2015
Location: The Game Keep
Campaign: Shattered Star, Session 40
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 (Daniel, subbing for Thomas) - Human Bard

The Session:

Last week we fought our way through the gates to Guiltspur.  Today we climbed the hill to the metal spire, stopping at a building.  We decided to investigate the building before approaching the spire, so we wouldn't get attacked from behind.  Gustav animated the body of a Fire Giant we'd killed last session, and sent it in to intimidate the giants inside.  They laughed it off, and invited us in to parlay.

Turns out this group of giants was of a different faction from the ones working for the dragon.  They offered to show us the way down into the dungeons, if we would do them the favor of eliminating their enemies.  We didn't necessarily trust them, but since they were asking us to do something we were going to do anyway, we accepted their help.

We went downstairs, and immediately got in a fight with three Fire Giants. It didn't last long, though we found out later the DM had accidentally under-calculated their damage rolls.  After the fight, we saw there were three tunnels leading out of the room.  The Eastern tunnel looked the most traveled, but we sent Meruca to scout the other two first.  While she was exploring the North tunnel, three Hill Giants came from the East passage.  This fight didn't take too long either.

Once we were satisfied the North and South tunnels didn't go anywhere important, we explored the East tunnel.  With Meruca scouting in the lead, first we came to a small room with a seven-sided pillar.  There were runes on each side of the pillar, but they were so worn they were almost impossible to read.  After a very high perception roll, we were able to read this much: "..who sleep in Guiltspur’s shadow shall know this fear, and what waits beyond shall..."  We kept going.

The next tunnel opened up into a long hall.  The first 65 feet were covered in gore.  Entrails, heads, and other body parts strewn about the floor, hanging from the ceiling, and fastened to the walls.  This grizzly area counted as difficult terrain, and we spent a while trying to decide how to get across.  Partly because we were afraid there might be traps in the gore, but mostly because it was just plain icky.  On the other side of the gore we saw three horribly scarred Hill Giants. 

Slancio hit two of them with a lightning bolt from across the gore, and Bjertha used her Boots of Striding and Springing to leap over the difficult terrain.  Bjertha killed one of the giants, then fell through a trap door.  One of the Hill Giants knocked out Gustav's zombie Fire Giant.  Meruca flew Fellany over the gore, and Fellany managed to kill one of the Hill Giants in one round, doing over 100 points of damage from all her attacks.  Then Fellany fell into a different pit trap.  The final Hill Giant fled out the far door.

At the bottom of their respective pits, Bjertha and Fellany faced a lot of discarded enemies.  Bjertha encountered a Fire Giant and two Hill giants, all of whom were missing their hands.  At first she considered reasoning with them, but they were mad and feral.  Fellany's pit was full of Trolls.  Both pits also contained a fire breathing Rift Drake.  Fellany used her Helm of Command to get one of the Trolls to toss her back out of the pit.

By this time the rest of the party had finally made it across the pit.  Meruca slid down into Bjertha's pit, and flew her back out.  Slancio helped Fellany get the rest of the way out of her pit.  We were all low on hit points and ready to find a place for a long rest.   This would have been the worst possible time for three Rift Drakes to fly into the room through side doors, but guess what happened next.

Gustav transformed into a Stone Golem, which turned out to be a very good match for a Rift Drake.  Hurt as we were, we managed to take out all the Drakes.  We're now limping pretty badly, but we ended the session before we could take a rest.

Reminder:
We've gained enough experience to reach level 12, but won't do so until we get a long rest.