Saturday, July 27, 2013

LFG: Spiral of the Bells

Game Date: 7/27/2013
Campaign: Looking For A Group, Session 6
System: D&D Next / 5e Playtest
DM: Rusty

Barad (Jeremy) - Dwarf Paladin
Flip (Jeremy, subbing for Trevor) - Halfling Rogue
Halfbeard (Jeremy, subbing for Cliff) - Dwarf Fighter
Keyleth Siannodel (Matt) - Elf Druid
Tamel (Matt, subbing for Andrew) - Elf Ranger
Zuul (Matt, subbing for Graham) - Half-Orc Paladin

Once again I missed a session.  While I was out last week, the party was offered three different quests.  Barad's church asked us to retrieve a bell.  Zuul's church gave him a mission of his own, but he is forbidden from telling rest of the party what it is.  Tamel was asked to deliver a package somewhere far to the North of the city.  We started with the bell mission.  The party sneaked into a castle, and an iron door slammed shut behind them.  We found an iron bell, then fought six well-armored clerics.  We barely survived the battle, and used most of our healing resources in the process.

The Session:
We had a low turnout today, so we didn't do a whole lot.  We explored a few more halls of this castle, which seem to be spiraling inward.  We found a few more bells this session, and we've kept all of them, just in case.  But I'm betting the bell we actually need is at the center of the spiral.

First we found a copper bell, then a brass bell.  Down another hall we encountered a wood golem.  Barad threw a torch at the creature, starting the fight.  The golem only took half damage from our attacks, but there were six of us, so he still only lasted a couple of rounds.

Around the next corner we found a silver bell.  Then we saw a statue.  Zuul rolled a religion check, but wasn't sure what he was looking at.  We sent Flip to check it out, and he was promptly hit in the face with a blast of magma.  Once we destroyed the magma-spewing statue, we heard a voice mocking Zuul's religious knowledge.

A bit farther on we saw a statue of a horse.  Again our knowledge checks yielded nothing, and we decided to just walk around this one.  Next we found a gold bell.  A little later we came across a small black dragon, fast asleep.  We debated a little on whether to sneak by, kill it, or talk to it.  Finally we had Flip attempt to sneak up and give it a coup de grace, but the dragon woke up before he reached it.  Since it didn't attack right away, we tried talking to it.

"Mmm... snacks!  Crunchy, crunchy snacks!" it said.  We tried diplomacy, but the dragon wouldn't allow us to pass without a bribe.  It requested 500 gold pieces per person, which was more than we were willing to pay.  When we refused, the dragon blasted us with acid breath.  It was a tough fight, and the party lost a lot of hit points, but we did survive.

After the battle, Keyleth expended the rest of her spells healing the party, so we decided to take an extended rest.  We found a safe-looking alcove and got comfortable.  Then we heard a woman's voice laughing, and a gate dropped from the ceiling, trapping us in the alcove.  There was a key in a keyhole on the wall opposite the alcove, and the mysterious voice told us we could get out if we could reach it.  Luckily, Keyleth had recently leveled up, and now had a rat form.   She skittered through the bars and raised the gate.  Then we took our extended rest, and ended the session there.

So far we will be playing next week, but we won't be playing this campaign on 8/10 or 8/17.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Books: Queen of the Demonweb Pits

Queen of the Demonweb Pits
by Paul Kidd
Published 2001
Part 3 of the Justicar Trilogy

The final book of this trilogy is just as good as the previous two.  The first book, White Plume Mountain, introduced us to the Justicar and Escalla.  The second book, Descent into the Depths of the Earth, gave us Escalla's background story and had her face her past.  So naturally, this third book does the same for the Justicar.

Unfortunately, his origin story is fairly mundane.  While Drizzt's beginnings took an entire trilogy to tell, the Justicar's backstory doesn't even make up a quarter of this novel.  That's too bad, because I like these characters a lot more than anyone in Salvatore's novels.

This book also gives more screen time to Henry and Enid.  Henry has taken a level in badass, having trained with the Justicar between novels.  Enid was always a monster, but she never got to do much fighting in the previous books.  Even Polk gets a couple of chances to be a hero in this one, though he's still mostly there for unfunny comic relief.

It's interesting how the gods are represented.  I don't know if this is true of Greyhawk, or just this author's interpretation of it, but the gods in this book are basically just really tough mortals.  Lolth reminds me a lot of the Queen of Hearts in Tim Burton's version of Alice in Wonderland: she has a huge ego, is very demanding, and a bit whiny.  Her marilith secretary, Morag, reminds me of Kif from Futurama.  There are a lot of funny interactions between the two.

The story itself is epic level.  I don't know what levels the characters would have been in the previous books, but in this one they're traveling to other planes to directly challenge gods.  It seems like an especially huge jump for Henry, who was extremely green when he was introduced in the second book.

Again, the series is written in a modern style that might annoy a lot of serious readers, but I enjoyed the lightheartedness.  The author sneaked in a lot of movie quotes and other little geek jokes.  If the nearly fourth wall humor bothers you, just think of it as an aspect of Escalla's fairy magic.  She comes from a race that specializes in planar travel, so it's no surprise they pick up language from all over the multiverse, including the real world.

I'm sorry to see the end of this trilogy, and I wish the characters had appeared in more books.  If you're looking for some D&D books for some light reading, you could do a lot worse than this trilogy.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

LFG: Two Wights Don't Make a Wrong (Sorry)

Game Date: 7/13/2013
Campaign: Looking For A Group, Session 4
System: D&D Next / 5e Playtest
DM: Rusty

Barad (Jeremy) - Dwarf Paladin
Halfbeard (Cliff) - Dwarf Fighter
Flip (DM, subbing for Trevor) - Halfling Rogue
Keyleth Siannodel (Matt) - Elf Druid
Tamel (Cliff, subbing for Andrew) - Elf Ranger
Zuul (DM, subbing for Graham) - Half-Orc Paladin

We'd been tasked with clearing the squatters out of a mansion, so the new owner could safely take possession of the property.  We'd explored nearly every inch of the building, and only had a handful of challenges left before us:  A gelatinous cube in one room, some giant wasps in another, a locked door we couldn't open, a vengeful doppelganger running around, and the fact that we were trapped in the basement with no visible exit.

The Session:
When we left off last week, we had just defeated some hobgoblins.  Under a pile of treasure, we discovered Barad, who had been tied up and badly beaten.  We introduced ourselves and he agreed to join us.  When we opened up the door to leave the room, we found the doorway was blocked by the gelatinous cube we'd been putting off fighting.  Convenient.

We fought the cube in the doorway.  It didn't seem as dangerous as the cubes in previous editions of D&D.  No one got engulfed, though Barad was injured pretty badly.  Once we killed the cube, we found a magic dagger in its remains.  We gave the dagger to our party rogue.  We continued down the hall, and found the next door had been spiked shut.  We assume it was the doppelganger we've been chasing around this basement.  We managed to push it back open and kept going.

Last session we passed a locked door with an ornate keyhole.  We'd recently found a key, so we headed back to see if it was the right one.  The key unlocked the door quite easily.  Inside, there was some glowing treasure in one corner.  We sent Flip to check it out, and he vanished when he got near it.  We experimented a little with some rope to find out if he'd been disintegrated or just teleported.  Unable to know for sure either way, we finally just said "what the heck" and followed the rogue. 

We were transported into a room with walls lined by sarcophagi.  Barad used his channel divinity power to detect undead, and we learned that two of the coffins contained something evil.  We decided to save those two for last.  We opened the coffins one at a time, having the rogue check them for traps.  The one time the rogue rolled a 1, it turned out to be trapped, but luckily our heroes were not harmed by the acid spray.  Most of the sarcophagi contained treasure, and we wound up with a big pile of coins to divide. We also found a map that promised to show us the way out of the basement.

The last two coffins each contained a wight.  These monsters are bad news for a first-level party, but our paladins managed to obliterate them with channel divinity spells before they had a chance to mess us up.  (Though we did have to take an extended rest between the first and second wights in order to regain the power.)  One of the coffins activated the portal to teleport us back to the previous room.

At this point, there was only one room we'd passed on, which contained four giant wasps.  We'd promised to clear out the entire mansion, so we were obligated to do this last bit of pest control.  Keyanna turned into a bear and charged into the room, only to roll badly and get swarmed.  She hit zero hit points twice this encounter, but she also managed to do her fair share of damage in the fight.

Our mission now complete (with the possible exception of the missing doppelganger), we examined the map to figure out how to get out of here.  We returned to the room where the trapdoor had been, and found a brick on the floor.  There was a hole in the wall where the brick had been, in which we found a piece of paper.  It was a short note directed at Tamel, and we can only assume it was written by the doppelganger.  It was nothing particularly informative, just a brief statement of disrespect, expressed in the eloquent style we'd come to expect from the doppelganger.

We played with the brick and the hole (no giggling), and heard a click whenever it was inserted or removed.  But we couldn't figure out how that helped us, so we consulted with the map once again, paying more attention this time.  It directed us to go to the Eastern corridor and chant some magic words.  Doing so opened up a new corridor, which eventually led us into the woods outside the mansion.

Tamel searched for the doppelganger's tracks.  He did find some barefoot humanoid tracks leading from the exit to the road leading to town.  Due to an extended rest we'd taken earlier, we knew the doppelganger had a huge lead on us, but we still rushed in hopes of catching up to it.  Keyanna turned into a horse and carried two of the party members, and the trio reached town well before the rest of the party.

Once the party was reunited, we received our payment from Caldwell, divided our treasure, and took advantage of the hospitality granted by Barad's church.  Next session we will find a new mission to keep us busy.  I still wonder if we'll ever see that doppelganger again, though.  He seems to have a personal grudge against Tamel, which could come back to haunt us.

TL;DR Version:
We finished clearing out the mansion and collected our reward.  Next week we'll pick up a new plot hook.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

LFG: A Tale of Two Tamels

Game Date: 7/6/2013
Campaign: Looking For A Group, Session 3
System: D&D Next / 5e Playtest
DM: Rusty

Flip (Trevor) - Halfling Rogue
Keyleth Siannodel (Matt) - Elf Druid
Tamel (Andrew) - Elf Ranger
Zuul (Graham) - Half-Orc Paladin

The Session: 
I missed the last session.  I'm told we hired a couple of new characters and cleared out the first level of the mansion.  We were unable to open one magically-sealed door, so we headed back to town.

We reported our progress to Clifton Caldwell, the mansion's owner.  Finding herself short on help, Keyleth brought on more new party members.  She set out for the mansion with Flip, Tamel, Zuul, and a wizard we hired to open the door for us.  The final room had a trap door, which we opened and descended to the basement.  Once we were at the bottom of the stairs, the trap door disappeared behind us, turning into a solid ceiling.

An elf approached us and asked for our help finding a relic.  Naturally we were suspicious, and besides, we had a job to do.  When we refused to come with him, he offered to show us another exit.  We didn't trust him, so we tied him up and took him with us while we explored the level.  The next room we entered contained a couple of cultists.  We thought about trying diplomacy, but our Half-Orc Paladin failed his Charisma check, and they went on the offensive.  The cultists kicked things off with a sleep spell, immediately taking Tamel and Flip out of the fight.

In bear form, Keyleth rushed in and attacked, failing to impress them by rolling 1's and 2's for the next three rounds.  But when she finally hit, it was a good one.  Once the cultists were dead, we went to revive our sleeping companions.  We quickly discovered Tamel was missing, along with our elf captive.  A few minutes later, Tamel came walking around the corner.  Shortly after that, another Tamel came walking around the corner, this one accusing the first Tamel of being an imposter.

We attacked the closest one, initially just trying to restrain him but doing more damage when he fought back.  When we finally knocked him unconscious, he reverted to his natural form, revealing him to be a doppelganger.  We continued exploring the basement, dragging the tied-up doppelganger with us.  We found one room with some giant wasps, but skipped it for now.  We also found a couple of empty rooms, and one with a lock that we could not pick.

 A few rooms later, we opened a door to find a gelatinous cube.  We shut the door on it and decided to deal with that later.  In another area, we fought four humans.  Afterwards, we found a lot of coins and our paladin looted a nifty new sword.  Unfortunately, during the fight/looting, the doppelganger managed to slip his bonds and sneak away.  In the next room, we fought three hobgoblins, killing them before they had much chance to react.  On one of their corpses we found a key that hopefully fits the door we passed earlier.  We ended the session there.

Next session we'll probably start by trying our key in that locked room.  If we're truly to do our job thoroughly, we also need to kill the gelatinous cube and the wasps.  We'll need to be wary of more ambushes from the doppelganger.  And of course, we also need to find an exit, seeing as how our trap door has wandered off.