Saturday, April 11, 2009

LFR - These Hallowed Halls

4/11/09 - The Game Keep
Module EAST1-1: East Rift: These Hallowed Halls (Low Difficulty)

Krusk (Rick) - Level 1 Half-Orc Rogue (Brutal)
Voranna (Matt 1) - Level 1 Eladrin Ranger (Archer)
Also in the group were a Cleric and a Warden, played by a couple from Huntsville.

A couple of people canceled (including Bryan), so we ended up with only four people. At first we were without a tank or a healer, but the other two players had brought extra characters, and they very graciously offered to swap them out in order to balance the party. And thank goodness they did, or we would have been sunk.

I don't want to give any plot spoilers in case anyone reads this who hasn't played the module. But I will say that it was a bit shorter than the other two I played, by about an hour. There were only three combat encounters, none of which would have been very difficult if more players had shown up. As it was, Krusk and Voranna both lost a lot of blood (Voranna got down to -3 hit points at one point), but we survived. The other two players were very experienced and helpful.

As Rick is new to rogues (and I've never played one in 4e), there was some fuzziness about how to set up a Sneak Attack. He didn't get them in very often. And while I'd rolled up his character with his shortsword in mind, he actually found himself using his crossbow more than his melee weapons.

Krusk and Voranna each received 400 XP, and 75 gp. Krusk took a +1 Frost Weapon and Voranna took a bag of holding. Voranna reached level 2.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Tantris - Session 2

Game Date 4/4/09

This is a quick-and-dirty summary of the session's major events. I might mention some details in greater detail in a future entry of Nara's Journal, but the session didn't leave us in a position where she would have time to write anything down. Plus I'm having a busy work week, and just want to get this information posted before I forget any details.

To recap: We failed to protect a caravan from bandits, and Rolan was accused of stealing some gems, but he was released.

We had seen another caravan camped on the way to town, so we decided to see if it was still there. Due to a shortage of drivers, we volunteered to drive the next wagon out of town. While the wagon was being loaded, we went to the local tavern to ask some questions. Nara then went to the sherrif's office to see if there was information to be had there, while Rolan and Rhogar stayed at the bar.

Nara asked the officer-on-duty about the bandit attacks, but learned very little of value. The bandits were about human-sized, definitely not goblins. Back at the bar, Rolan met a mysterious elf. They had a private conversation in Elvish, in which the stranger mentioned his "business of the people."

When the wagon was finally ready to go, we headed for the camped caravan. It was still there. Everyone was dead, and the wagons had been looted. We decided to to set up camp ourselves, in hopes of getting attacked. We didn't want to be too obvious, so we drove a couple of miles down the road first. Our wagon made a funny noise, and it turned out to be an issue with part of the axle. Simple wear-and-tear, or sabotage? We fixed it as best as we could with what materials we could find, failing to notice there was a box of wagon parts in the wagon for just such an occurrence.

So anyway, we wanted to get attacked, so we acted like decoys. Nara took the first watch, pretending to read while the other two pretended to sleep. We were soon attacked by small reptilian humanoids (presumably kobolds), who threw javelins at us from the cover of tall grass. It was a tough fight, but we finally won. However, we were soon exhausted, and we didn't want to stay in such a dangerous area, so we drove a few more miles and camped.

Rolan was on watch duty when he was robbed by a masked bandit. The robber carried a red-bladed sword, which due to previous clues, meant that he was most likely the bandit we'd been seeking. Unfortunately Rolan was in no position to fight back, so the bandit took what he wanted and left. Rolan woke up Nara and Rhogar, and we soon discovered that the wagon's wheels were now partially submerged in the ground. This turned out to be an anti-theft charm - if a certain item was removed from the wagon, the wagon was rendered incapable of moving.

Lord Derai soon showed up, and once again scolded our ineptitude. He gave us an enchanted piece of paper, which displayed a magic arrow that always pointed towards Derai's stolen loot. Per his orders, we immediately set out to follow the arrow. Of course the enemy had a good head start, and we had to stop and rest again before we got too far.

Later we found an old campsite, which we believed to be a decoy. At this point the arrow started acting strange, changing direction at certain places. At first we thought we might be standing over an underground hideout containing the loot, but soon we noticed a person up in the trees high above us.

We argued a little about what to do - Nara's crossbow had the farthest range of the party's weapons, but Nara doesn't like to shoot at people who don't attack her first. We didn't want to call out to him - if there was any chance he hadn't seen us yet, we didn't want to alert him to our presence. Before we settled on a plan, we noticed that he'd disappeared. We heard him land on the ground beside us, but we couldn't see him.

So, Rolan (being the fastest of us) used the piece of paper to chase the invisible enemy. Unfortunately the villain managed to get behind him and stab him in the back, nearly killing him. When the others caught up to Rolan, Nara healed his wounds. While we still couldn't see our enemy, Rhogar managed to hit him with his acid breath.

Nara recognized the bandit's cloak as a Cloak of Elvenkind, but it was too badly damaged by Rhogar's breath to ever be worn again. The bandit was badly injured, and we gave him just enough medical attention to keep him alive. In his possession was the red blade, and a scroll with the stamps of both Derai and Everesk. We decided - for now - not to open the scroll, and let Derai's business be Derai's business. But we do wonder if we're being set up.

We decided to tie the bandit up and carry him back to the wagon with us. We made it back to the wagon safely. It was once again in drivable condition, so we plan to take it back to Lord Derai as soon as possible, to present him with our prisoner and his loot.

This is where we had to end the session, due to the time.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

D&D Player's Handbook II

Note: This post has been moved here from my other blog.

The PHB2 was released a couple of weeks ago. It has 8 new classes and 5 new races, as well as some new feats, paragon paths, equipment, rule updates, etc.

I feel it's the perfect companion to the first PHB. To be honest, I was buying it mostly for the Bard, which was one of my favorite classes in previous editions. But looking through it, I'm finding all sorts of things I want to try. I think my next character might end up being a Razorclaw Shifter Druid who favors cat forms. I see at least three feats my existing characters might take later, and the new racial paragon paths are pretty cool.

There's a section on Backgrounds, which was probably added for those people who thought the PHB1 didn't have enough roleplay rules. I applaud their efforts, but I don't think this will satisfy the detractors. Basically, it lists a lot of suggestions for various races and character types, giving you a jumping-off point to write your character's backstory. To encourage a fleshed-out background, you get a bonus to a skill associated with that background (with your DM's approval). Other bonuses (like an extra language) might also be allowed. I like the idea, but it's not what I was expecting, and it's definitely not what some of the complainers were hoping for. Most of the roleplay griping I've heard was about the lack of occupation-specific skills like sailing or crafting. The PHB2 doesn't add any new skills into the mix; it only gives bonuses to the existing skills.

Personally I'd have preferred if they'd listed a lot of possible former occupations and hobbies - blacksmithing, jousting, basket-weaving, etc - and allowed you to add a bonus to skill rolls associated with that action, if that specific action came up in the story. You could only pick a certain number, and they would have to be listed in the "background" section of your character sheet before the first time you play the character. Plus there could be rules about related skills... if you were once a bootmaker, the DM might give you +5 if you're specifically trying to make or repair boots, but he also might rule +2 if you're trying to repair some leather armor.

I would have liked something like that, but even that's not really needed. Any DM worth his salt will already give a player some advantage in a jousting tournament, if it's been previously established that the character did a lot of jousting growing up. And any decent player who claims his character was once a professional informant in the seedy parts of town, already took "Streetwise" as one of his skills when rolling up his character. So yeah, it's not what I would have come up with, but at least they're trying to reward well-written characters.

Wizards of the Coast is owned by Hasbro, which may be why they've been trying to promote a more family-friendly image lately. Half-Orcs were not included in the first PHB, because it was difficult to discuss their parentage without including some unsavory elements. While some Orc/Human romances have probably happened now and then, it was generally understood that many Half-Orcs were the result of rape, and Hasbro didn't like that. Well, the Half-Orcs are finally back in, but their backgrounds have changed a little. Half-Orcs are now a full-blood race. So now if you're a Half-Orc, most of the time it's going to be because both of your parents were Half-Orcs. At first I hated the idea, but it's grown on me.

For one thing, I've never liked half-anything being called a race. I would rather they had just listed full-blood races, then added a chapter on possible pairings and the stat changes they would entail. Secondly, the PHB2 still gives "First Generation Half-Orc" as an option, so players who specifically want mixed parentage are still allowed to do so. So everybody wins.

The Half-Orcs also are also more marketable this time around. They are no longer automatically ugly and stupid. They're just taller humanoids with greyish skin and tusks. Going by the book's art, they're actually fairly attractive. You can still make yours a dumb brute if you want (and in previous editions, you could design your Half-Orc smart and attractive, it was just harder), but the "brainless tank" stereotype is no longer assumed. Besides, if you really want to play a big brute, Goliaths are the new Half-Orcs.

Gnomes are back as well, and also a bit changed. I've never played a Gnome in previous editions, so I could be way off here, but they've always struck me as silly-looking eccentric tinkerers. Going by the art in the PHB2, they're a lot more attractive now, looking like half-sized elves. They still work best as magic users, but fast-talking rogues would probably work well too.

The new race I'm most interested in is the Shifter. They're basically werewolves/weretigers without the lycanthropy. Your facial features are a bit doglike or catlike, and you are very in tune with your base instincts - perfect for the new primal classes. My only problem is that I'd really love a Shifter who uses only her claws and teeth, but there aren't any unarmed melee classes. There's rumors of Monks in next year's PHB3, but Monk's carry a lot of excess baggage that I wouldn't wish on an animalistic character. But like I said above, I'm thinking of making a Shifter Druid, and staying in my beast form a lot. That should be fun.

The only race I really don't get is the Deva. These are basically earthbound angels who are driven to glorify the gods. Okay, leave it to me to miss the point of something religion-related, but I'm just not sure how these fit in. I'm sure they added them to complement the new Divine classes, but I just can't imagine these characters being common enough to make it into a PHB. IMO, they should have done like the Genasi and included them in one of the other splat books.

Now the classes... Barbarians aren't much changed from 3rd (well, as much as anything from 3x to 4e can be considered unchanged). They're still just a more brutal version of the fighter. High damage, low armor - because sometimes the best defense is to slaughter your foe before he gets a hit in.

The Bard is very different, and I don't know if I'll like playing them, but I will try. They do make sense for the 4e system. One of the most noticeable elements of 4e is the "roles" system, and a party works best when it has at least one character filling each role. Granted, this was the case long before 4e, and for most other RPGs as well, but 4e is especially difficult if you don't have a well-rounded party. Fourth Edition is hard to play solo, and Bards will have the hardest time fighting by themselves. Bards have always been support characters, and now more than ever, every move a Bard makes benefits one of his party members. Which means that every party will be glad to welcome a Bard into it. Just don't let him wander off alone.

The Druid is a bit different; they really concentrated on the Wildshape ability. You can build your Druid with an emphasis on your humanoid form or your animal form, and it probably feels like a completely different class depending on which one you favor. You can either play your Druid like a nature-based Wizard, casting spells from a distance. Or you can use your animal form to claw your opponent's face off. Changing shape is a minor action, so you can shift, move, and attack in the same turn. That's going to be fun.

Sorcerer is kind of neat. I never liked how Wizards and Sorcerers felt in 3x, because they were basically the same class, but with a different philosophy towards spell memorization. But 4e Sorcerers really look unique. I love the spells with random elements (mostly dailies) - when calculating your damage, you roll an additional d6 that determines whether the spell also paralyzes, shocks, burns, blinds, etc. It's almost like gambling. I've never really been into the pure magic classes, but I may give this one a try. A Dragonborn sorcerer sounds like fun.

The rest of the classes don't interest me, but I haven't looked at them that closely yet. The Avenger strikes me as being another type of Paladin. The Shaman reminds me of the Beast Master version of the Ranger, except with a Native American "spirit animal" theme. The Warden also reminds me of Rangers, except dealing with mountains instead of trees. And I'm not sure what to make of the Invoker yet.

The new feats are nice. A lot of them are made to go along with the new classes, but there's some good ones for the original classes as well. Of course each new class has a selection of Paragon Paths, but the book also contains some race-related Paragon Paths as well. My favorite is the Dragonborn one - it makes your breath weapon more useful and lets you grow wings. There's also sections on new equipment and rituals, some of which is specifically designed for the new classes.

In short, it's not just another splat book, IMO. It's not indispensible, but it is a lot more useful than most of the other supplemental books.