Monday, January 26, 2009

A slight delay but more Kalamar

Last week, the plan was to play Palladium Fantasy, GM'ed by John on Friday and then I'd DM the game of D&D 3.5e Kalamar for in-laws plus 1 on Sunday. Unfortunately, Beth was sick on Friday and I stayed home from work to help take care of her and watch the toddler. So we have indefinitely postponed that game.

But we did game on Sunday. Patrick and Daniel, my brothers-in-law, and Lindsay, Patrick's girlfriend, came over and we played for a couple of hours. Beth was busy baking pizza, brownies, and cookies and didn't join us, so Daniel ran her character.

Here's the rundown of the group:
Patrick plays Darwin, a level 5 grey elven sorcerer, with a rat familiar named Brisby.
Daniel plays Raizix, a level 5 human fighter.
Lindsay plays Jelena, a level 5 wood elf ranger, with a wolf companion named Amaterasu.
Beth plays Ember, a level 3 druid/level 2 rogue wood elf, with a dog companion named Fang.

During the last game, the group had just finished killing off one and driving off another giant octopus from Ejja-Vonan. The Senojy has given the group help in terms of free camels and 4 guides to assist them. They set out east, following their guides.

Four things happened during this part of the adventure:
  • The group was attacked by a giant ant lion
  • Their main adversary appears to them
  • Some plants pose not a problem at all
  • 2 dozen cultists impale themselves upon the blades and arrows of the group.
The group travels along, and the first thing they come across is a sand dune with a glint of gold at the bottom of it. Wary, Raizix approaches on camel back. He stand up in the saddle, and can make out some gold coins. Concerned about quicksand (prompted by an earlier discussion about character and equipment weights), he asks the others what they think. They try to bring the coins up using rope. While this does avoid approaching the pit, it really doesn't have much chance of working. After a few tosses, a giant ant lion emerges from the hole, and starts charging.

Jelena peppers it with a few arrows, and Darwin tries to hit it with a scorching ray before it rips into Ember and has grabbed her in its talons. Raizix runs up and drives his sword right through its exoskeleton and kills it outright.

Darwin, being the lightest, descends into the pit to see where the ant lion came from. He finds a tunnel, and he throws a rag doll down the rough corridor after casting a light spell upon it. He approaches slowly until he makes out a skeleton and some bones. Jelena and Raizix join him, followed by Ember.

Ember checks for traps and deadfalls, and them approaches the skeleton. She finds a few weapons and gold coins. Two of the weapons are magical, according to Darwin: a spear and a battleaxe. He takes the spear, and Raizix carries the battleaxe.

Later that evening, the party come across a black tent with a camel next to it. 'Fortunes' is written on a wooden sign that is situated above the tent flap. Curious about this tent, Raizix approaches, calling out the entire time. "Oi! Hello!" There is no response. He uses his sword to lift the tent flap, and sees little inside, as it is too dark.

He enters to find colorful silks hanging from the ceiling, and a siloutte farther back in the room. "Hello?" Still no response.

He pushes farther in and sees a figure with a hooded cloak sitting in a chair. There is a table, with a deck of cards, which the hooded figure picks up and then motions to an empty chair. "Hmm, a mute fortune teller. This should be interesting." As Darwin approaches from behind, Raizix sits down.

The fortune teller shuffles the deck of cards, and then places them face up, one at a time. First, a dark tower. Second, a ship. Third, a large coin. Lastly, a skull on a black background.

"Death!" Raizix immediately springs to his feet, bringing his sword accross his body, and into the figure before him. He recognizes Daresh before she begins to disppear, laughing.

The tent then begins to collapse, and Raizix and Darwin rush out of the tent. The tent smolders and disappears, and the camel shrinks and disappears inside itself. Darwin quickly determines that this is the result of a spell, and that Daresh or another wizard must be nearby. The group climbs to the top of a hill, but see nothing that would indicate her presence. Unperturbed, the group continues on.

The next day, the group comes accross some vampire cacti, which Ember and Darwin burn.

Later that evening, they see in the distance the hills of where the blue dragon is supposed to live. They also see smoke. They go as a group to investigate, but a guard comes upon them. Jelena shoots him before he can raise an alarm. The guides recognize him from his clothing. He belongs to a clan that worships the Emperor of Scorn. They believe that the Dejy are superior to all others, and that means the group is at risk of being attacked, especially considering they just killed one of the tribe.

Recognizing that eliminating this threat now may be better than having it attempt to follow, they quickly begin shooting into the nomad camp. They quickly kill the two dozen remaning members.

Here's character sheets after xp and treasure:

Darwin (Brisby, rat familiar)
Jelena (Amaterasu, wolf companion)
Ember (Fang, dog companion)

I had a few problems with this part of the adventure. First, all the encounters were too easy. I'm not certain if this is because the PCs are too high of level or if the threats were just easily overcome. Plants for example, don't pose much threat if they can't move and if the PCs heed the warning of the guides. Also, 24 CR 1/2 warriors that don't wear armor is a little too weak. I assumed they were somewhat proficient with their quarterstaffs (value: 0), and wielded them as a double weapon as implied by their stat block. Due to the lack of equipment or good stats, I made them CR 1/4, because even a kobold is more of a threat than the tribesmen were. The only possible threat was the ant lion. Ember could have been more seriously injured if the initiative order had been different.

We also got a new table at IKEA earlier in the day which was a vast improvement over our previous arrangement.

IKEA table

Comments welcome!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Dire Wolf Cupcakes and more.

Originally uploaded by MelkiorWhiteblade
We had people over for gaming on Sunday, and Beth made Dire Wolf cupcakes. They were excellent.

We played through another small part of the Forging Darkness module, which is the second part of the Kingdoms of Kalamar Coin Trilogy.

The adventurers had just returned from the jungle with Halaan, the alchemist who is to have knowledge on how to stop a coin of power. Daresh, an evil wizard, had another alchemist create her a coin of power. The adventurers had interrupted the process, but to ill effect. The coin is now grafted to Daresh, making it fused to her life essence. Normally, a coin of power destroys the weilder by drawing on their essence, but this link may circumvent that.

Trying to fight fire with fire, Raizix, Darwin, Ember and Jelena traveled to Zoa to seek the aid of Halaan the alchemist. They eventually tracked him down to the jungles south of Zoa, and rescued him. They have since returned to Zoa and are aiding him in creating a second coin of power.

Back in September 2008, when we started the adventure, everyone had reached level five. We got everyone's spells sorted out, their animal companions and familiars (I always forget level 5 familiars can speak!), and new equipment (character sheets available to view here. Then, the adventurers went to the manor house of the Hireeds. Rumors surrounding their strange activities and fall of the family were common. They were searching for the first of three ingredients for the coin: a diamond touched by death.

They found the estate shortly after entering the woods, and had little trouble finding a trap door leading downwards, presumably into a cellar or crypt. The only problems they encountered were an iron door with an old chain and a few dire rats. The iron door succumbs easily to a few blows from a sledge by Raizix and Jelena. The rats posed little problem and were quickly dispatched.

Once in the tomb, the group quickly found a suspicious trail leading from an open coffin to a sarcophagus. They open it to find a tentacled monster, which they killed surprising quickly. Having read through the adventure a few times, I thought a CR 8 monster that deals stat damage would be bad news. Jelena got a crit with her longbow (3d8+15), and it was pretty much over.

The monster had a diamond in its clutches, which they promptly took back to Halaan.

So thats what happened back in September. New jobs and schedules meant we didn't play again until January 18, 2009.

Halaan thanked them for their work so far, and was interested in hearing about the horror within the tomb. Taking the diamond, he gave them an iron baton in exchange. He explained it was to capture the lightning breath of a blue dragon. The blood of a devil spilled by a coward is the last rare ingredient. He says he doesn't know where a devil or dragon may be found, but the wizard Geolain might. The group has worked with Geolain in the past, so they went to on their way.

As the group leaves Halaan's Forge, they see some thugs across the street in front of a house, and apparantly the family in the house is leaving, loading their possession on a cart. This lead to some 'daring do' by Raizix, who thought the family might need some rescuing from some ner-do-wells. Eventually, Darwin gets on Raizix's case: "You want to rescue a family from selling their house? What? Really? Really?!" Jelena tries to help the situation, but gets her foot in her mouth, "Who are they, anyways?" indicating the rough looking men. Raizix isn't satisfied with leaving without doing anything, and tells the women his name and how to contact him, attempting to be discreet. This part of the module wasn't scripted, which made it kind of fun as a GM to fill in the holes, but someone difficult too.

The adventurers get to Geolains tower after that, and are told about the Sentinels of the True Way by Foa, Geolain's assistant, and how they have been harassing him and Geolain. This is probably in connection with the books that the adventureres resuced for Geolain from the Sentinels earlier, according to Foa.

Geolain tells them that a Blue Dragon is supposed to have lived, and probably still does live, in the Khydoban desert, which is across Reanaaria Bay and the Sea of the Dead. Raizix is concerned about what dangers they may be in the Sea of the Dead. "Oh, nothing much. There's rumors that the dead live there, but I'd be more concered about pirates. Considering it's not shipping season, there isn't much to worry about."

They follow Geolains directions, and take their ship, the Hyperion, with Captain Wein and a new crew out of Zoa accross the sea. It's uneventful, and the group plans on how to cross the desert, discussing what supplies they will need.

They sail into Dynaj and travel by camel to the village of Ejja-Vonan. They didn't plan on staying at Ejja-Vonan at all, thinking that they had an accurate map and good trackers in their group and wouldn't need much help. However, as they were passing through, an attack by two gaint octopi on the fishing boats out in the water got their attention. They rushed to everyone's aid, and through the use of bow and spell killed one and drove off another.

The village elder, or Senojy, thanked them, and told them what he knew of the dragon to the east. He also sent four guides with the group to assist them.

That's as far as we got on Sunday. The other group will be playing Palladium this Friday, and this group will be playing again on Sunday the 25th.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Dragons of Autumn Twilight Book and DVD Review

On Monday, I finished reading the first part of the Dragonlance Chronicles, which is the Dragons of Autumn Twilight. The following night, I watched the animated DVD of the same name which I had gotten for Christmas. I thought I would review them here since they are somewhat roleplaying related.

Warning: I tried to avoid spoilers as much as possible. There really aren't any in terms of the book, but the movie review may discourage some people.

Dragons of Autumn Twilight, by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, first published in 1984, was an excellent book. I actually read the annotated version that combines this book with the next two in the series, Dragons of Winter Night, and Dragons of Spring Dawning.

I felt that the book was quite excellent, and not what I had expected. Having read quite a bit of other fantasy books both recently and in the past (in no particular order, J.R.R. Toklien, R.A. Salvatore, Elizabeth Haydon, Terry Goodkind, Robert Jordan, Joel Rosenberg, Brandon Sanderson, David Farland, and Goerge R.R. Martin), I enjoyed some of the choices that were made with this book.

While Salvatore describes combat in detail, especially with regards to balance and position, this book used more description of external events. Actual combat is described more in terms of feelings than actions.

The protagonists didn't trust each other much in this book, which I found to be a strong element. Not everyone gets along, and that creates conflict and moves the story along.

D&D staples such as the elves and dwarves are here, and we are also introduce to kender in the form of Tasselhoff, which takes the tried and true halfling/hobbit concept and makes them a little more unique.

The annotations were at times sparse, but did give some insight into the design process, especially with how the book tied in with the TSR D&D modules. Tracy Hickman especially commented on how game elements were followed strictly in the first book, and relaxed as they continued on in the series.

I'd recommend the book to any fan of the genre.

The movie, while good in parts, failed in some major areas. Some of my favorite scenes in the book were not present in the movie at all. Unfortunately, characters and lines from the removed scenes were added back to the script, at times forcing the dialog or events. Some of the events were changed, probably to preserve pacing in the movie, but it ended up stripping away motivations from characters. It made the whole movie seem rushed.

Some of the animation was quite good. However, I didn't care for the combination of 2d and 3d animation. Whiled it made the bad guys look otherworldly, it didn't mesh well. Unfortunately, most of the animation was quite poor. I found myself comparing this movie to the anime Record of the Lodoss War, which I find would earn the subtitle 'A Dungeons and Dragons Adventure Tale' better than Dragons of Autumn Twilight. Especially considering that both 'dungeons' in the book were removed from the movie!

The book ended on a good note, and could be read separately from the others. The movie, however, foreshadowed some events and not enough of others. It seems optimistic on the part of the producers that finishing the trilogy is guaranteed.

I wouldn't say the movie is worthless. The voice acting is good, and they follow the story in the book for the most part. However, I'll say that the book is far better than the movie, but I say that about all movie adaptations of books, but in this case it is very apt.

Feel free to leave you own comments!