Tuesday, September 30, 2014

High Tea

Since I am not currently building worlds, instead playing and DMing in the Forgotten Realms, a chunk of my brain has had nothing to do, so it has focused on what my character does while not adventuring.  I typically come back to the game table with an ocean of things my character has planned.  Luckily, the DM is good-natured about all of this, but sometimes there is just too much, so I turn to email.

Even that can get out of hand. :)

We recently finished the Mines of Phandelver in the Starter Set and have been branching off in new directions.  My current character, Lady Sarafina, is obsessed with locking down her powerbase in the Phandalin region.  She is empire building.  Her only real opposition, aside from orc armies, Dragons, Drow, and ancient Netherese Medusa Queens, has been Halia Thornton, the local Zhentarim leader and mob boss.  Sarafina's faction,the Lords' Alliance, has centuries of animosity with the Zhentarim, and the feelings bleed over between the two women as they vie for control over the wealth and the people in the area.

However, Lady Sarafina tends to get into trouble (this last time being turned into stone,) and Halia tends to pull her out of the fire and hold it over her.  A cold war between the two developed - as Sarafina realized she just couldn't lop off Halia's head - and Halia realized that having a legitimate noble protecting the area had some benefits.  So the two ladies began to have tea together at Tresendor Manor and discuss matters in a more genteel setting.

Sarafina, of course, couldn't stand it for long.  When it became evident that the party's two wizards were going to join the Zhentarim faction. I wrote the following note to the DM (those of you who have played the Mines of Phandelver will probably recognize some events discussed below):

While eating off a thousand year old Netherese dinette set that the party found in a ruins, Lady Sarafina broaches a subject that's been on her mind;

"Halia, we are the two strongest women in a fifty mile radius.  In one way or another, we are equal in power. I really can't have that.  

"No, the wine isn't poisoned.  I'm not about to put my axe through your spine either.  However, I am claiming you as my possession.  Like I took the town.  Like I took the people.  Like I took the land and trees and rocks and water. That's how I'm taking you.

"Every pack has to have an alpha bitch.

"I see that anger in your eyes.  But you know that I take care of my possessions.  I have bettered this town. I have protected the people.  What exactly did you do when you had the chance?  You pussy-footed around, not dealing with the incompetent Townmaster Wester, not dealing with Glasstaff and the Redbrands, not dealing with that Drow bastard.  You were screwing around with the Miner's Exchange, a good amount of money and power in your hands, doing nothing.

"I do things.  You knew that the minute you saw me walking into town.  I take charge.  I lead.

"I know how the Zhentarim works.  They are all busy trying to stab each other in the back.  You certainly don't have any friends there.  In fact, I'd say you must have quite a few enemies to have been chased off here to the boondocks, away from the political games and intrigue, away from the true sources of power in the organization.  I'd say that your assignment to Phandalin is punishment for some catastrophic failure on your part.

"That hit a nerve.  Sit back down.  I'm not through.

"You never feel safe in the Zhentarim, do you?  There is always someone ready to kill you if they get a chance.  That little elf witch you brought in; the cute one.  What do you bet that she's a spy for your boss?  She's keeping an eye on you.  She'd gut you with one word from that boss of yours.  In fact, she'd gut you on her own if she thought she could take your place.  You can't relax in those conditions.  You can't rest.  I'm amazed you even sleep.  In fact, that disguise spell is having a hard time keeping that under-eye baggage of yours in check.

"I sleep just fine.  I even snore.  Loudly.  

"A minute ago, I claimed you as my possession.  That means you are under my protection.  Not my begrudging protection as was earlier, but my full protection.  You have aided me in many ways, including saving my life.  I protect my own.  I hunted and killed a Medusa to save 6 peasants.  I executed a dragon on the off chance it might be a threat.  I destroyed the Redbrands, wiped out a Drow led conspiracy, and have slaughtered countless sub-human savages that threatened me and mine.

"All of that to protect people I barely knew; people who could never pay me back.  So what do you think I would do to protect you; you who are so vital to the health of my holdings?  I've destroyed an orc army before.  I'd at least do that for you.  Why, I'd even take out a cart load of Zhentarim assassins with bounties for your head.

"All I ask of you is your submission; your acceptance of me as your mistress.  You will be my vassal.  My bitch.

"Not officially, of course.  We'll continue our little cat and mouse game of Zhentarim versus Lords' Alliance.  You'll continue to do things to piss me off and I'll continue to do things to stop you.  You can report back to your overseer that you have me under your thumb.  But the two of us will run this place and look out for the good of the people and each other and grow in power and get filthy rich while doing so.

"Stop with all of the mock surprise and fake indignation.  You know this is our only logical option.

"I'll be forming a town council soon.  I think you'd do well as its chairman, as long as you obey my wishes and not let your own agendas get in the way of mine.  I think it's time we formalized your power.

"Did I just see a smile?  You hid it quickly, but yes, I definitely saw it.

"And I see you've got your claws in my wizards.  That's okay.  They have never had the temperament for sweetness and light anyway.  Keep your claws in their dark souls.  I have my own claws in yours.

"The sphere in which I can protect you fully will ebb and flow, but know that inside these walls, you are safe.  We will continue to have our dinners.  You can relax and breathe easily here.  Kick off your shoes.  Loosen your corset.  You might even get the first good night's sleep you've ever had.  After all, I know you've had a secret murder tunnel installed from your house to my bedchambers, even if it's not on the blueprints.  You might as well use it for something more productive.

"Stop staring at me with your mouth gaping open.  The proper response to my offer is 'Yes my Lady'."

Yeah, Lady Sarafina enjoys hitting hornets' nests with sticks.  Fun times.

- Ark


Monday, September 22, 2014

You loose! by Milenko

I stumbled onto this piece yesterday from Milenko.  It's ranking way up there as one of my fantasy favorites, probably in part because it reminds me of my shorter than short D&D pc, Lady Sarafina.  Sans pistol, of course. :)

Check out his other stuff!

- Ark


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Acquisitions Incorporated

There are some people I play D&D with who have not seen Acquisitions Incorporated, so this post is for them.  Everybody else - stop reading.  Oh, okay - read along if you must - other people.

Back, like, about a billion years ago, Wizards of the Coast made a podcast to showcase their new (then) version of Dungeons and Dragons - 4th edition.  They got some funny people - Gabe and Tycho from Penny Arcade, and Scott Kurtz from PvP - to play a round of D&D and show what it was capable of.  Over the years, that idea exploded into a mutant horror involving huge auditoriums packed with people, cosplaying DMs and players, and live streams on Twitch.

There have been a lot of podcasts and videos over the years, including a plethora of 'interns' - including Wil Wheaton.  They are kind of scattered all over the net in various formats.  If you are interested in watching, I think the last four sessions are a good place to start, and form a story arc that I like to call 'The Forgotten Realms Magical Mystery Tour.'

Ark of the Mad Mage Part One - This takes place after the members of Acquisitions incorporated crash land Jim Darkmagic's family mansion onto the world of Faerun.  Um - long story.  It involes some old fashioned crazy dungeon goodness.  This one is only audio - so no big audience or cosplaying - but they had done large theaters before this. It's also chopped up into a whole bunch of episodes, but the link I provided puts them into a playlist. It's a good one, but if you want to SEE what is going on, feel free to skip to Part Two.  Oh, and it is using 4e still.

Ark of the Mad Mage Part Two - This one is on stage, with a live audience and costumes.  It continues the dungeon delve - eventually turning into the movie Pacific Rim inside of Waterdeep.  I'm not sure how that happened - but it's funny. The game mechanics switch from 4e to D&D Next in this episode.

Tyranny of Dragons Part One - The party continues on after the events in the 'Ark,' and begins to run afoul of the 'Tyranny of Dragons.'  Again, stage and cosplaying and still D&D Next.

Tyranny of Dragons Part Two - And more dragons.  :)  This is the first game using the 5e rules.

If you want to see the earlier stuff, just dig around on the D&D site or on YouTube.  You'll eventually find the stuff and sort it out. :)

Who the hell are all of these people?

They are . . .
Chris Perkins as the Cosplaying DM
Jerry Holkins as Omin Dran
(Tycho from Penny Arcade)
Mike Krahulik as Jim Darkmagic
(Gabe from Penny Arcade)
Scott Kurtz as
Binwin Bronzebottom (PvP)
Guest Staring
Patrick Rothfus as Viari
Morgan Webb as Morgaen


- Ark


Thursday, September 11, 2014

We Killed A Dragon This Weekend

No gold dragons appeared in any of the games this week,
but my son's high school colors are purple and gold,
so yeah - that explains the color choices above. :)
Actually, there were a LOT of dragon happenings over the last week.


These days, I play in two D&D games a week.  One as a player - one as the DM.  Our DM, a younger, much more energetic fellow, participates in three games a week.  So yeah, we are using the hell out of the 5.0 PHB.

As you may have seen from previous posts, I'm playing as Lady Sarafina of Corlinn Hill in the Phandelver game.  We've been playing some time now - but because of the sandbox nature of the adventure - we've been purposely avoiding the big green dragon on the top of the box, who we figured pretty quickly was in the old mage's tower in Thundertree.  So - there came a point where there was nothing left to do but go take on the dragon.

The party currently consists of one ranged fighter, one tanky fighter, a tanky paladin, and two howitzer wizards.  The net effect is that we don't sneak and we don't heal.  We just show up loudly on someone's doorstep and begin blowing the shit out of everything visible.

We were afraid of the dragon.  What we should have been afraid of was the frikkin spiders.

One of the players - the paladin - had been complaining that he wasn't really feeling threatened.  He wasn't afraid of the combats.  This, despite the fact that his character had been KILLED DEAD in the last session.  (You know that one revivify scroll? Yeah . . .)  So the DM upped hardness of Thundertree.  Holy shit.  I never want to see another spider again.

The spiders immediately took out the two tanks.  Then one of the wizards.  The ranged fighter did some damage, but was taken down as well.

So, in the dusty main street of a ghost town, one wounded giant spider and one battered, stubby halfing wizard with a ring fetish stared each other down like two Clint Eastwoods in Tombstone.  I think even a tumbleweed went by.

It was the spider's turn.  He was too far for a regular attack, so he shot his web.  Every time that frikkin spider shot his web, one of us went down.  So it was just about down to a TPK.

The spider rolled a 1.

Wham, the halfling sent a barrage lights into the spider and killed it dead.

The dragon fight was a real work out.  It was fun.  At one point, three out of five of us were out on the ground.  My son said it was a very satisfying end to the adventure - which it was.

But I don't care how badass that dragon was.  My heart was pounding HARD - and I mean HARD - only in that spider fight.

Frikkin spiders.

Hmm - I didn't get to the second dragon story - the one in Hoard.  Oh well - next post.  Till then, watch out for spiders.


- Ark

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Face Purge

The League of Extraordinary Adventurers

Last night was my first foray into Adventurers League.  That's WOTC's blanket term for their multi-pronged organized D&D play program.

In a nutshell, the Adventurers League is divided up into three bits - D&D Encounters - the 2 hour Wednesday night games, D&D Expeditions - a 4 hour a week program more like a standard home-sit-down thing, and D&D Epics - big-ass multi-table affairs that happen at conventions.

At my FLGS, there are about 20 people involved in the Adventurer's League.  It's a different experience that the previous RPGA LFR stuff back in the 4e days.  Those had the feel of a highly structured, 6-man game of Magic: The Gathering at times.  There were very specific rules on how players could earn their XP and their magically morphing magic weapons and armor.  It was a head-to-head(s) miniatures skirmish game where DMs were lauded on how fast they could get the party through an adventure. (YMMV, but that was MY experience.)

This new stuff it - well - you just sit down and play D&D.  The overall mandate for the DM is spew fun out your ears.  DMs are encouraged to change the adventure as they see fit.   Players keep track of their swag and xp.  The store keeps track of who showed up.  And that's it.

Hoard of the Dragon Queen is D&D Encounter's first offering this season.  I DMed, and we made it through somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 of the first section of the adventure.  Plenty of role-playing, plenty of kobold ass kicking, and plenty of heroics.

Honestly, the first bit of HDQ is kind of bland.  There is high adventure, sure, as there is a war going on.  But there isn't a lot of flavor in the pages.  Actually, I consider that a wonderful bonus as I have gallons of my own flavor to pour in.  I decided that the chapel would instead be an orphanage, and to focus the town's  purpose around taking care of those kids.  That ratcheted up the urgency and gave a whole lot of drive to one of the players who had picked the urchin background.

And might I add - again - how happy I am with 5e?  I swear it DMs itself.  It feels completely natural and the rules rarely intrude.  They are probably most apparent when a spellcaster is firing of a new spell for the first time and has to look it up.  I don't know - maybe it might be difficult for someone new - but for a person with years of experience with other editions - it's like butter.

I think I have a good description now:  5e is 2e riding 3e's bicycle.

Okay, maybe that description needs some work.  But if you've played em all, you get my point. :)

Speaking of points, let's look at something interesting map-wise.  Examine these maps - in particular, the shape of the forests in the region where Horde of the Dragon Queen starts:

3e FR Campaign Guide - circa 1372 DR

4e FR Campaign Guide - circa 1479 DR

Horde of the Dragon Queen - circa 1486 DR to 1489 DR

Why does it look as if . . . oh . . . the Spellplague never happened? :)

So yeah, I'm happy - on multiple levels with multiple things.

- Ark